My name is Felicity Bleckly and I am the new Deafness Editor for BellaOnline. I feel I am qualified to be the deafness editor because I am totally deaf. Why did I choose to become the deafness editor for Bellaonline?
I came across the Bellaonline web-site simply in a Google search and saw the deafness editor position was open. I know the frustrations of being deaf, both for myself and the people around me so I felt I was qualified (smile). The most common cause of deafness is age-related. Therefore with the number of baby boomers who are now entering the Ďagedí phase of their lives there are more late-deafened adults than ever before. When I was going deaf I had no idea of where to turn for help. I hope others donít go through this and by being the deafness editor I hope to provide information and help in coping with deafness and perhaps finding solutions whether it be through technology such as hearing aids, cochlear implants or baha, or solutions in coping with the many situations in life where having poor hearing makes it hard.
Now hereís why I feel I am qualified to be the deafness editor. No-one really knows why I became deaf, but the specialists suspect it was because of a severe bout of measles when I was around 9 years of age. The first indication that I had a hearing loss came through a routine school examination where a high frequency loss was measured. It didnít affect me, so I went on with my life as usual, planning to be a piano teacher.
I still didnít recognize my hearing loss was making itself felt when I joined the prestigious college choir and then was asked to leave because I couldnít quite keep pitch. I simply felt disgraced. But the next year I developed tinnitus and this was really the start of a life long search to either maintain what hearing I had or find a solution.
When I was 28, I became a single mum with three children under the age of 8. For the next 20 years I brought them up without any financial or emotional support. During the whole time my hearing was deteriorating, slowly cutting off the quality of my life. By the time I was 35 my left ear had died so I had about 20% normal hearing (40% in my right ear only). I was wearing a hearing aid to boost sound but it was very little help and spent more time on my desk.
I had been a piano teacher, so I had to change careers. I was thwarted in my education not once but twice, because of my hearing loss. I lost my job because of it and didnít get many of the jobs I was short listed for, simply because I was defined by my hearing loss.
By the time I reached 40 I was pretty close to totally deaf. I did very well with lip reading and many people didnít pick up that I was deaf. It wasnít until my children left home that I realized how really deaf I was. For the first time I was living alone and had no help. Even making a doctor or dentist appointment was hard work because I couldnít use a phone.
Around this time I started searching for answers. I bought a tv which displayed subtitles, made a foray into the Deaf community, learnt sign language and participated in Deaf social events. But what I really wanted to do was hear. I started investigating a Cochlear Implant, not knowing whether the technology would be suitable for my kind of hearing loss.
At the time I was assessed I had only around 5% hearing in my right ear. By now hearing aids could no longer help me. So many things in my life had been cut off. I started losing touch with my family. My children lived interstate or overseas, my parents in another state and I couldnít phone them. My isolation had become almost total. I was very, very lonely.
After a 5 year wait my name came to the top of the list and I underwent the Cochlear implant. By now I had got my life back on track. I had met my wonderful husband who accepted me regardless of my deafness. (Having the implant was actually a concern that it would change the dynamics of our relationship which was so good.) I also didnít feel deaf and felt as if I was a bit of a fraud having the implant.
But have it I did! It only took a few minutes after my speech processor was programmed for me to start understanding speech again. A few days later I talked on the phone successfully for the first time in about 15 years and I listened and understood the radio. The best gain has been able to enjoy playing the piano again.
The Cochlear Implant gave me back my life. I no longer deal with deafness on a day to day basis. I am no longer isolated. I am so grateful for my returned hearing that in 1995 I chose to become a volunteer with the Cochlear Awareness Network and in 2007 Cochlear offered me a part-time position with the Network. In my role I make presentations to clubs and groups about living deaf and regaining my hearing. I have articles published in magazines and on-line. One major aspect has been developing a resource website for audiologists, surgeons, potential recipients as well as a member only support section for other Cochlear Awareness Network members. This web-site can be viewed (public section only) at http://www.c-a-network.com