Blog: Amy Morton – Living with hearing loss
By Amy Morton
My name is Amy Morton. I am married and have two children aged 8 and 6, I’m a Holistic Therapist by trade. I have had a hearing loss from birth due to a virus my mum had whilst pregnant with me. The virus caused my nerves to be damaged, so unfortunately, all my high frequency range never developed. I was not diagnosed until I was 3 years and 9 months, due to the fact there was no hearing testing from birth.
It has been a challenge at times, during schooling and growing up, however I was successful and happy in the holistic beauty industry for 12 years. I gave up my treatment room in St Alban’s to be a full-time mum to my dear daughter, which took me into a world of other challenges. I realised then, that there was a real lack of awareness for the hard of hearing. I went onto have another child, my son, and was kept busy and always wanted to see what I could contribute to awareness campaigns. My son is the eldest in his year, so I had him at home with me for a year longer than normal, so this year was the first year I’ve had a window of time to help raise awareness.
When the pandemic started it was as everyone has surely felt – a very anxious and worrying time. However, I felt safe in our little family bubble, and as much as home schooling was challenging, it was a safe environment for us all. When lockdown lifted, and face masks were made mandatory, I felt I was in another lockdown because relying on lipreading was essential for me to communicate and to help understand people.
Having two children at the start of the summer holidays, with the requirement of masks being made mandatory, filled me with anxiety and worry. What challenges was I going to come in to contact with? Am I going to have to be more open about my needs? Are they going to understand? The children need a summer holiday, what am I going to do?
We are a very active family and I have two very energetic children. Fortunately, we were invited over to Jersey by my husband’s parents, and with a low Covid-19 rate, we enjoyed some normality for a month. I was so grateful for that time. Returning to the UK was horrendous and I was crippled with the sadness of returning home – no-one could really understand why I was so upset.
The children were excited to start back at school, and we were looking forward to getting back to (hopefully) a new normal. Unfortunately, face masks started to increase in use and to my panic the UK Government advised schools that parents should wear masks upon collecting their children.
The day I got that email from my children’s headmaster, I felt full of anxiety. However, I came upon an article from the RNID (previously Action for Hearing Loss) that said you can ask another person to lower their mask if they need to make themselves understood. I emailed my children’s school and notified my immediate friends of the situation. I was so worried that I would have so many awkward conversations. What if a parent needs to talk to me? What if I don’t hear them and they think I’m rude?
The coping mechanism I had perfected for nearly 39 years was now not useable!
I did this initially on my own, and then with some marketing support, which I funded myself. I wanted everyone to know about this, and with a limited knowledge of social media, I needed to get the message out there so that everyone understands what we – the deaf and the hearing loss community – are going through. I needed to get the awareness out there, and so from there, Living with Hearing Loss was born.
Before now, I wasn’t very forthcoming about asserting my needs; but for the first time ever I was forced into having to have to make my needs known to others. I then discovered the exemption card and emailed the school explaining about it, and wrote to all the parents in the school via the newsletter.
My children’s headmaster was very supportive, and through that opportunity that awareness grew. Parents were messaging me saying they hadn’t thought at all about how face masks and coverings would affect the hard of hearing and deaf community. It helped to raise everyone’s awareness.
My dear family and friends have been a huge help and support. I will always be grateful, and still am, for their ongoing support.
I have started this campaign to enable customer service businesses to offer themselves as lipreading-friendly, and to educate these establishments about the exemption card.
It’s a simple campaign, and one that will raise people’s awareness, plus (and the big plus) it will enable the hard of hearing and the deaf to enjoy their shopping experience and communicate easily with the staff.
This my gift to you all – the gift of clear communication – a more positive release from lockdown and a warm welcome from the customer service sector which we didn’t receive last time. A more compassionate public.
I hope for it to be the gift that keeps on giving, as I will continue this work going into January.
So happy Christmas to you all – we are in this together! I hope to do you all proud. Look out for my poster – see below – and please don’t be shy about using exemption cards.
If you know of any businesses who you would like to put this poster up, please get in touch and I shall send you a campaign pack. Also, if you would like to help me support this campaign by becoming a volunteer, that would be very much appreciated.
I would like to say a personal thank you to Hearing Link for their very kind support and for featuring me in their blog space.
To find out more about Coronavirus restrictions in your local area and for guidance on face masks and coverings, and exemption cards, visit the UK Government website.