The Sound Barrier

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 childhood , 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…….

21 Replies to “The Sound Barrier”

  1. Eimear

    Have enjoyed watching your images develop, excuse the pun, over the last few years.

    I wish you well in this new journey


  2. You are an inspiration ! may all you wish for and deserve arrive for you and your family and may it come in abundance, best wishes and good-luck x

  3. Hi Eimhear,

    Although we have never met I was aware of your hearing issues but was unaware of the deterioration 🙁 .

    I’m so sorry that you have had a poor time of it especially over the last year and a half but I’m thrilled that you have been selected to receive a cochlear implant. You know, when I want to cheer myself up I often log on to youtube and watch the many videos of people whose lives have been enhanced (i.e. changed immeasurably) when they received their implants. I’m really hoping that it will be the same for you too.

    From what I can see, most recipients tend to hear beeps, buzzes and tinny sounds at first but very quickly the brain adapts to different pitches and sound levels and eventually the sound quality becomes greatly improved. Here’s hoping that your op will be a success and that you will be hearing Bryan and the boys in next to no time.

    Best regards,

    PS When you do get ‘wired for sound’ remember to keep up your visual senses too. Keep posting those great images!

    1. Hi George,

      thank you so much for your lovely message ! Very much appreciated & I am looking forward to the future and hearing voices and sounds in nature. Theresa whole new world out there for me waiting to be explored 🙂


  4. Hi Eimhear, was at one of your workshops to the 40 foot and white rock with you and Brian from Celbridge Camera Club and really enjoyed it. I would just like to say that I hope your surgery is a huge success and you get to experience again, something that a lot of us take for granted. Looking forward to hearing from you. Pun intended. Regards, Peter

    1. thanks Peter for your lovely good wishes . It will be nice to be able to engage more easily with other photographers like yourself and have a good chat when I meet you all at the shoreline !

      Kind regards,


  5. Thank you for sharing your good news and your wonderful photos! Very best of luck with the operation: one of my nephews had a succesful cochlear implant operation some years ago & it has made a great & positive difference in his life. Looking forward to hearing more good newss from you asap too!

  6. So happy for you Eimhear! As a sign language interpreter I can imagine how wonderful could be the idea of being able to listen and communicating with others independently. I will pray for you . You are so lucky to have such a wonderful husband and sons .
    I can see through your pictures how much love and passion you have inside .
    Always remembering you and your family with love and kindness .

  7. Hi Eimear,

    Wow am delighted to hear such wonderful news. My friends daughter had the same operation done and it was a complete success. To be honest I bawled my eyes out when I saw the little smile on her face when she heard my voice and spoke back to me in a language with I could only understand. Her words were I love you. I minded her as a child for a while because a lot of people couldn’t understand her and because she was deaf, she use to get so angry at people because they had no clue what she was trying to express.

    I guess growing up in a house with my Dad who is partially deaf helped me understand little Emily a bit better than others. At times I look at my father and feel so sorry for him not be be able to be apart of a group conversation, not able to hear his name as a child which was Philiph so he just became Bob as his father was Robert. He misses out on so much we take for granted. However when I look at him as my father I am immensely proud of him and feel so blessed to be his daughter. Like yourself Eimear he has a very special gift. I guess your eyes work so much harder than ours that have full hearing you see things very different. My father use to hand carve and would produce some amazing stuff. He would go into his little world and wow to what he could achieve. Love your pictures and they always seem to bring a calmness to me when I see them. I love the sea too for many reason.

    I wish you nothing but the very best for your new adventure. You are a true inspiration and hope all your dreams come true. Xxx

  8. Eimhear my very best wishes go to you!! I will keep you in my prayers for a successful outcome. I can only imaging what it must be for you, it’s wonderful that your photography has been a good part of your life! and brings you so much joy. I look forward to the updates, and having a chat with you one day 🙂 xx

  9. Eimhear ,
    I really enjoyed this piece. I love your photography and it is so exciting seeig you perfect your craft I think your style is so beautiful and unique. I wish you the best of luck wih the surgery. You are such an amazing person.
    Much Love,
    Katy Anna x

    1. thanks Katy Anna.. ! I really appreciate your good wishes and compliments. I too enjoy following your progress and achievements. You are going from strength to strength all the time. It would be wonderful if I were able to hear you singing . I have always wondered what you sound like.. beautiful , I know, but would be nice to hear you… and Rosie !!! xx E

  10. Eimhear,
    Your story has left me with tears in my eyes. I can only guess what a silent world must feel like. Growing up, my father was very deaf. I remember the day he came home with his hearing aid fitted. It was a sunny summer day and I was sitting in the back garden. He joined me and sat quietly for a few minutes. He then said “the birds are singing”. It was an amazing sentence. I never truly understood his world till that moment. I am so delighted and excied for you. I had the pleasure of seeing you speak in raheny camera club and your images are awe inspiring! I wish you the very best with your operation.

    1. HI Sharon… thanks for sharing your own story about your Dad with me. That was a special moment to cherish. I too hope I will hear birdsong !! Thanks for your good wishes too..x E

  11. Eimhear,

    May I wish you the very best of luck with your operation. My thoughts and prayers are with you for a successful outcome. You are an amazing photographer and an inspiration to all of us.

    Theresa xx

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