As many of you may know, my world has been silent for the past year and a half. I have always been profoundly deaf since birth , but a photographic trip to Tanzania in January 2014 resulted in complete hearing loss in both ears. This was as a result of the long haul flights.
I was pretty gutted when I realised that I could no longer hear my husband’s voice any more. Bryan has always been the one person I could rely on to understand and to assist me communicating with others. In the past I was able to hear my children’s voices , but I was never able to decipher what they were saying. This has been a source of sadness for me that I have been unable to hear my own children talking.
About a year ago I decided to try and see would I be suitable for a Cochlear Implant. A cochlear implant is a highly sophisticated device which provides access to sound for people who are deaf or profoundly hard of hearing. The surgically implanted device, when coupled to an external processor can provide access to speech and everyday sounds to aid or improve communication abilities.
The National Cochlear Implant program is based at Beaumont hospital in Dublin. I have been attending the clinic here for a number of months now. Suitability for cochlear implant surgery is decided by assessment. You need to meet several criteria. About 3 months ago I was approved for the surgery and am now on a waiting list. I have been told that the operation will in all likelihood take place in the first half of 2016.
I had resisted the idea of a cochlear implant for many years as I have fears about the surgery itself and the risks. The deciding factor for me is the realization that the longer I am completely deaf, the more my speech will deteriorate. This is not presently noticeable to my friends and acquaintances , but Bryan recently accompanied me to one of my photography talks and he noticed a change. When I am giving the talks/ lectures I am totally focussed on the photography and talking about the images and not paying as much attention to my speech as I normally would.. It is important to me that my speech remains as clear as it is. The audiologist at Beaumont hospital has advised me that it is only a matter of time before my speech deteriorates noticeably. If it deteriorates I would not have the confidence to continue with the talks which I very much enjoy doing. It is always a pleasure and an honour to be invited to clubs around the country to show my work and talk about the images .
So, that’s the good news ! I have been approved as a suitable candidate for CI. The surgery itself is a 2 hour operation to insert the implants and the recovery process can be somewhat slow and painful. Switch on of the device happens a few weeks after surgery.
As a photographer being deaf can have its advantages. I am totally focussed on my work and not distracted by any sounds/noise. I believe that over the past few years I compensated for my lack of hearing with enhanced vision. I believe that if one sense diminishes, another improves. Being deaf means the TV has little appeal to me, so I am more inclined to be motivated to head off for a shoot in the evenings rather than staying in . Most programs have subtitles , but it still does not hold much attraction for me.
However , as a deaf person life can be quite stressful and complicated at times. My deafness can also be quite isolating. Focussing on my photography over the past few years has brought me great joy. The sea brings out the very best in me. At the seashore everything changes for me. I can “hear” and feel the crashing waves. It is probably just a memory though from the past when I was small. When I am beside the sea I feel very calm and happy , and this has helped me enormously to cope with the feeling of isolation that comes with deafness.
My hopes and aspirations for the future :
I hope to be able to hear Bryan and the boys and to be able to engage in conversation with them. Also to hear my friends voices. Unless I have known you for a very long time, I will have never heard your voice, so it will be very exciting to hear you. As it will be an electronic sound rather than what you would normally hear, I have been advised that people may sound like cartoon characters !
I don’t want to be unrealistic , but I would love to hear some sounds that I have never heard… the breeze moving through the trees and bird song . Often when we are out on an early morning shoot , one of my photographer friends will pass a remark about the Dawn Chorus… I would also love to be able to hear music again. Whilst I was never able to decipher the words of songs, I did have a good appreciation of music in my teens and twenties.
To conclude.. as I mentioned earlier, I have always been profoundly deaf , but my world has been completely silent for over a year and a half now. This is the beginning of my journey back in to the hearing world and I am very grateful to the Cochlear implant team at Beaumont hospital who have given me this opportunity.
Thank you to my family & friends for all their support particularly over the past year and a half which has been quite challenging on many levels, but hugely fulfilling on the photographic front . It is thanks to my photography that I have continued to grow both as a person and as a photographer.
To be continued…….