Kate Wilson

Age: 37
Performing Arts producer
Moderate to severe hearing loss

I describe myself as Hard of Hearing or as having a moderate hearing loss (although my hearing loss is moderate to severe, I downplay it because severe sounds, well, so severe!) I was diagnosed just before the age of two and have worn hearing aids ever since then. I have even grown to love them as I rely on them heavily to navigate through life. 

My mother tells me that I didn’t speak before being fitted with hearing aids and once I had them, my words came tumbling out a million miles an hour and didn’t stop. I struggled with my hearing loss, particularly in primary school years as other children would tease me for being ‘different’. I remember teachers used to make me play Chinese Whispers. I’m sure they weren’t being cruel but it was very inconsiderate because I would muck it up of course, every time. To be fair, when I was at school I don’t think the teachers had much training in that regard. I think there was a real lack of understanding. 

I had always thought that I was introverted because I was hearing impaired, until I met another hearing impaired guy who was really extroverted and confident. Then I realised my whole family is introverted, so it really wasn’t because of my hearing loss. Realising it was just my personality and who I am was quite an eye-opener. 

I feel that there shouldn’t be any difference between wearing hearing aids and glasses. But people do doubt you intellectually.

Since primary school I have become quite skilled at concealing my hearing aids (and still do today), which is quite easy to do as I have long hair. I don’t often tell people who I’ve just met that I have a hearing loss until I get to know them a bit better, particularly in work situations. I think the reason is that I don’t want people to doubt my ability and professionalism. I know that’s wrong. Everyone has their own hang-ups, challenges or impairments. I guess most people wouldn’t think less of me but it’s just a fear that is
ingrained in me.

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As an adult and after the birth of my daughter I have started to accept my hearing loss a bit more as I want to be a good role model for her. I want to teach my daughter that she can do whatever she sets her mind to, that she can be whoever she wants to be and that nothing should hold her back. I want her to be accepting of anyone from all walks of life and I don’t want her to ever feel like she has to hide a part of herself. 

In a global sense, I think the biggest challenge hard of hearing / deaf / hearing impaired people face is acceptance from society. We are often thought of as having a ‘disability’. I take exception to that term. Why should we be viewed as or treated differently to someone who wears glasses (the sight impaired)? With more and more people being diagnosed with some degree of hearing loss, I think that there needs to be more education (starting in primary schools or earlier) about the different ways to interact with people who have hearing challenges. In social situations, I try and go to places that are quieter – which is not always possible. I have learned a few tricks along the way, for example to position myself with my back to the wall and at the head of a table so I can see everyone and to follow the conversation better. I have also become quite skilled at lipreading over the years.

I have also come to the realisation just recently, that I am not deaf / hard of hearing – my hearing impairment doesn’t define me, it is just one part of me.