"A colleague was shouting from another room to me and I couldn’t hear what he was saying. It was then that the penny dropped."
When Maria noticed that her mother was showing signs of struggling to hear, she encouraged her to follow her own lead in having a cochlear implant, to avoid having to cope in the way that she had before she recognised she had a treatable auditory problem.
For Maria a successful career woman at the time, with a grown up daughter of her own, was only too aware of how much easier her life had become since being fitted with a Cochlear implant.
Since being a teenager the clues were there that Maria might not be hearing as well as her contemporaries. “I could never get the words to songs, which was always a long standing joke as I’d sing the wrong lines. And when I used to watch cartoons and puppets, I didn't realise that they actually spoke! I thought they just made noises. I always wondered why people found Tom & Jerry so funny, but it was only when I saw subtitled television that I realised there were words as well!”
But despite hearing loss being in her family on her mother’s side, Maria thought nothing of these minor setbacks. It was not until she was working in her early 20s that a colleague suggested she might have a problem and realisation set in for Maria that she had been subconsciously overriding her hearing loss with various coping strategies.
“A colleague was shouting from another room to me and I couldn’t hear what he was saying. He pointed out that nobody else had had a problem sitting at that desk and that I ought to be able to hear him. It was then that the penny dropped,” says Maria.
“I’ve always compensated in other ways to make up for my hearing loss. My peripheral vision has developed to become very good and I use visual clues, like shadows to alert me to what’s going on around, as well as lipreading,” says Maria. “I also find it easier to hear in areas which are not all hard surfaces and tend to seek out places which have soft furnishings and are carpeted which stops noise bouncing around. Large open spaces with no soft furnishings to soak up sound are difficult for everyone with hearing loss.”
Maria, now aged 62 and living in London, saw her hearing continue to deteriorate in the coming years and by the time she was in her early 40s she found it very difficult to hear. This did not stop her though from landing a plum managerial job heading an independent living project.
Day to day she managed, but in hindsight admits working with such profound hearing loss was exhausting. “I’d get staff to take my calls and would use Typetalk phone relay service whenever I couldn’t avoid speaking on the phone. I’d also use a pager before mobile phones came out,” says Maria. “I’ve always had the attitude that if someone else can do it so can I, and that no problem is insurmountable,” she adds.
Maria had also during her years of hearing deterioration brought up her daughter Charlotte, now aged 27, who she laughs, has never relayed to her any stories of angst at her mother being unable to hear. “I was 34 when I had my baby and my mother always jokes that Charlotte had developed very good lungs early on to let me know when she was crying."
“I always found ways around any possible problems. I’d have a baby monitor so I could see any disturbance on it and in the car I’d make sure I could see her from my mirror in her baby seat. When we went to the park I’d always make sure Charlotte and her friends walked in front of me. It was never really an issue.”
But after being fitted with the Cochlear implant in her right ear, aged 44, life became so much easier. “The first thing I noticed was suddenly how much more energy I had. It can be very tiring struggling to make out what people are saying and to be aware of what’s going on around you,” she says. Maria is now also comfortable talking on a landline phone and mobile, she can enjoy music and having stepped down from her full-time job, has been teaching lip reading part-time for the past five years.
The information on this website is for educational purposes, and is not intended to replace medical advice. Please consult a hearing healthcare professional to diagnose or treat a hearing or health problem.