Emergence of Two Worlds: Deaf & Hearing

Roger watches his 9 and 6 year old children bopping to the radio in the car. They love music and anything goes...Classic Hits to More Fm and the Rock...they love it all. But Roger has never heard it. He lost his hearing at the age of 2.

My family were living in India when I contracted polio. I was too young to remember anything, but mum and dad said I nearly died. The medication the doctors put me on saved my life, but it took my hearing. My poor parents were so worried back then because they were not sure if that was the only damage. I was only 2 and overnight I could not hear and for a while I did not speak as I did not know what was going on.

After my Dad’s 5 years work contract expired, and at the age of four, Mum and dad decided to return to Britain as they believed I would get a better start in life there. My parents spent a lot of time with me; trying to read me something and doing activities with me in the hope I had the capacity to learn. They spent time looking for a deaf school where I could benefit from the appropriate education and I was enrolled when I was five.

Within my first 6 months of schooling I was told I rushed home showing mum a book I had been reading and I started to speak. Mum was so excited, but she waited until Dad came home to tell him.

My parents had nothing to fear, not only could I learn, I was like a sponge for knowledge, I had a thirst for it and I passed the 11+ exams in England and earned a place at a prestigious grammar school for deaf children. Unfortunately the school had a rather silly policy of making all children wear hearing aids- even though it was of no benefit whatsoever to those of us who were profoundly deaf. It’s like telling a fully blind child they must wear glasses!!

Apart from this nuisance policy, the school was great in other domains. It had a fantastic academic and sports programme which I embraced. I have always believed in doing the best I can and pushing myself. My parents were high achievers and their influence had a positive impact on the way I approached my own life.

I became captain of the swim team, mastered the art of diving and was chosen as Head Boy when I reached the senior year in the school. That year I went onto complete my A level (university entrance) exams and secured a place at university to study illustration & art. (there were no computers at that time)

The combination of a loving, supportive family, a good quality education and my own perservering personality helped carve out a strong sense of self and confidence within me. Upon reaching university all three of these things would help me navigate a much more tricky landscape: a Deaf person in a hearing world. There were no access to sign language interpreters or notetakers and I had to perserve in my own silent world.

Up until that point, I had been a Deaf person trying to fit in a hearing world while my identity was culturally Deaf.

Finding my way through the hearing world at that point was quite difficult, though I was resourceful and spent quality time at the library reading the information for courses as I could not hear the lectures. In the meantime I supplemented my social needs by attending a local Deaf social club which embraced my identity.

I eventually graduated with a BA (Hons), and then came the challenge of trying to gain wilful employment. It took me almost a year to get my first job. Most employers would not give me a chance at interview because they were impatient and would not take the time to listen to what I had to say. At times communication was limited to paper and pen and their excuses of not employing me was down to my inability to use a phone.

Eventually I got my breakthrough when I went for an interview and I could lip read the interviewer so well and managed to hold the conversation effortlessly in the end we finished up humouring each other! I was finally employed and went on to become their most productive graphic artist - because I was focused on the job at hand and did not get distracted by noise and conversation!

My eventual career in computer graphics spanned over 20 years, I succeeded in owning my own business employing two full time and two part time staff; one deaf person and 3 hearing people.

During this time, my parents had heard about the advancements in Cochlear Implant technology and asked if I would be interested in having one. I thought it was something worth exploring and I made an appointment with a consultant.

At the appointment, the consultant told me I would have to wear a hearing aid for 2 years before I would be considered for an implant. I told him - I’m profoundly deaf - the hearing aids are no use – they insisted I wear them and immediately I lost confidence in the process and did not pursue it further, to my parents dismay.

The continuation of my life has has been full of wonderful experiences, achievements and personal growth. I have been blessed with two beautiful hearing children, a wonderful partner and a new career. Now I would like to share in some of those experiences with my children and my partner. They often come into my world, communicating in NZSL and are aware of Deaf culture and interact within the Deaf community and I would like to join them in their world of the hearing community. I realise a cochlear implant would enable me to do that, an opportunity to enrich my life further.

I have always accepted my deafness and for such a long time I did not think about it, the barriers were a natural part of my everyday life but I have arrived at a point now where I would like to embrace the possibility of having access to sound. Imagine that! A chance to combine the two worlds, how extraordinary!

I have been through the process for elegibility and had all of the assessment appointments. I am elegible, however, presently there is no funding available for cochlear implants and I am on a waiting list. Here is hoping one day soon I’ll be joining Trisha and my gorgeous children in their hearing world as they have joined me in mine.