James was a hairdresser until seven years ago when he lost his hearing overnight. It was a huge change in his life – losing the job he loved and leaving him isolated and feeling low. In his darkest hour, he reached out for support and Hearing Link was there to help. After attending one of our group support sessions, James’ life was turned around and he hasn’t looked back since…
I was a hairdresser all my life until I lost my hearing seven years ago. It happened suddenly overnight at the age of 49. I woke up in the morning and it was gone.
I visited my GP who sent me straight to the hospital. I was diagnosed with a severe to profound, sensorineural hearing loss – I was devastated.
They said I had a severe case of scarlet fever, which may have caused my loss, but this was never confirmed. I was not offered any steroids, which is considered a common treatment for sudden hearing loss. They said I would be completely deaf within two years and that I was to go home and deal with it.
Losing my career
Not being able to be a hairdresser had the biggest impact on my life because it was all I ever wanted to do since I was 13 years old.
During this dark period of trying to accept how my life had changed, I was unable to work due to the severity of my hearing loss.
As a hairdresser you are working in a very loud and active workplace, and every day was a real struggle for me to hear what my colleagues or customers were saying. I couldn’t do my job anymore, so I had to leave – it was heartbreaking.
Asking for help
I was in a very, very, dark place and having very, very, dark thoughts. It took me six months, but I decided enough was enough and one day I emailed as many organisations as I possibly could asking for support. It was my last cry for help.
Thankfully, the next morning Sensory Support in Belfast got in touch with me. They brought equipment to my home for me to try including a TV listener and textphone. They arranged for an intercom and flashing smoke alarms to be installed. This was a huge weight off my shoulders because I could get on with my life at home without the worry of being in danger.
It was Sensory Support who told me about Hearing Link and the support it offers to people with hearing loss and their families. Quite quickly, Hearing Link got in touch and offered me a place on one of their support groups, known then as the Self-Management Programme.
Attending this group was a huge step forward for me because I had lost all my confidence. I was very unsure if attending the programme was the right thing to do at that stage of my hearing loss journey.
When I arrived at the hotel for the first of three sessions, I was a complete shell of the person who I am today.
I could not speak to any of the other participants, and I struggled to make eye contact. I spent the whole day thinking that I wanted to leave and go home, but I didn’t. I stuck to it and stayed for the whole session.
The volunteers were so helpful, friendly, and put me at ease. It was also so nice to meet other people with a hearing loss for the first time and know that they were going through the same thing I was. I really felt everyone in that room understood the challenges I was facing due to my hearing loss. The information and experiences we shared on the day were so valuable. I left the first session feeling a bit more positive than when I had first arrived.
I hoped that I would feel more confident at the next session which was taking place a month later. At this session, I was more talkative and open about sharing how I was feeling.
By the third and final session everyone was like: “Oh please, take that microphone off James!” and ever since I have been known for hogging the mic at events!
Attending the Hearing Link group programme was a positive turning point in my life. The difference it made was so noticeable to everyone who knows me. It completely changed my outlook on life and how I have gone on to live with my hearing loss.
Today, nothing stands in my way. It is no longer a case of I cannot do the things that I want to do because of my hearing; I must do them differently!
Sadly, my career as a hairdresser has come to an end, but I made many great friends and memories through my work and I will always cherish these.
I have applied for many other jobs, but so far been unsuccessful. Living with hearing loss has given me more time to be at home to enjoy my hobbies.
I am a dress maker and design wedding and formal dresses. I now have flexibility to meet clients on a one-to-one basis to discuss their requirements.
Before the hearing loss programme, I was afraid to do many things because my hearing loss had made me feel so insecure.
There are still daily struggles. Having hearing aids is not a quick fix, and I still have a lot of hearing issues that I deal with daily. Thanks to Hearing Link and its group programme I can look at things with more of an open mind and a little more confidence.
The group also proved to be so helpful for my partner. It helped him to understand better what I was going through and offered lots of new strategies that could support me day to day.
Hearing Link and its volunteers were so understanding of what people with hearing loss and their families need. During my group programme they listened to us to find out how we need helped and what information and strategies we needed to know to make living life with our hearing loss better.
They have given me so much of ‘me’ back again. I feel like I have my personality back and I can go forward with confidence and positivity – nothing holds me back anymore! My hearing loss works for me now.
Becoming a volunteer
Thanks to Hearing Link’s help, choosing to be a volunteer for them was an easy choice. They supported me in every step of my hearing loss journey, and I did not hesitate at being able to give something back to them and those they support.
I love being able to help others to understand how to manage their hearing loss and offers solutions for moving on with their life.
I know from personal experience that Hearing Link’s information and advice really helps, and through my volunteer role make sure no other person feels the way that I did.