How my cochlear implants have benefitted my life and my personality
Being deaf my whole life has never disadvantaged me in terms of what I believe I can do or achieve. Having implants from such a young age has benefited me in more ways than expected, allowing me to be able to speak clearly and understand body language and facial expressions well, helping me to read situations that may arise. They have helped me overcome all sorts of barriers with increased confidence. Sport and music can be seen as something that could hold a hearing impaired person back but I have not let this define me, and participate fully in these activities with my implants, overcoming obstacles each day.
My fascination with music has always been with me - having my implants gave me my belief that I can do anything surrounding music. I learnt how to drum from the age of 8 and continued it for 6 years, learning many different songs of all genres. I also sang in a choir as part of my Bronze Duke of Edinburgh and gained self-esteem in being able to cope in noisier environments and staying concentrated on the task at hand.
Outside of my A-level studies I have completed my Bronze and Silver Duke of Edinburgh and am working towards achieving my Gold, which would not have happened if I did not have the independence that these devices have provided me with. While completing my Gold Duke of Edinburgh, I wanted to gain greater language skills and importantly for me, learn more about the Deaf community, which I accomplished in a sign language course, learning small simple signs that now enable me to hold a conversation. As a result, I have enhanced many skills, including teamwork, leadership and commitment. I have been able to further these and increase my confidence as a Deaf athlete playing football and badminton at a good level, venturing beyond my comfort zone. At 16 years old I joined an adult hearing football team where I have made them more deaf aware and accepting of an invisible disability.
For the last 6 years, I have been volunteering with Beavers which has improved my communication skills, confidence levels and taught me to be more open about my implants - I take leadership roles without hesitation and work constructively with large groups, explaining what is needed when talking to a person with a hearing impairment. During the pandemic, I was even able to participate in virtual Beaver meetings held on Zoom, testing my listening abilities. This proved very helpful in my university applications when I had to take part in virtual interviews. Had I not had implants none of this would be at all possible.
I started at a primary mainstream school at 5 yrs old and have continued all the way through to sixth form. I have thrived and have been able to participate fully in all school activities and trips. I currently study Biology, Sport and Exercise Science and Sociology A Level and want to continue on to university and study physiotherapy. I wouldn’t have the confidence in myself to be able to do this without the access to spoken language and the hearing world that the implants have provided to me. During my time at school, I was asked to participate in interviews for the new Head of Sixth Form, deciding who was suitable for the role. I was chosen due to my self assurance and ability to communicate clearly in my questions. This is a further example of the confidence and unique perspective that the implants have given me. I want to study physiotherapy due to it being used in all aspects of the hospital; helping people regain their independence, confidence and some control over their own life, in the same way I got support after being diagnosed as profoundly deaf.
I maintain a huge variety of friends with the help of my implants. The implants have given me the support and belief in myself to be able to communicate freely with others and want to spend time with friends outside of school, football and work. I have friendships that have lasted over 10 years and still remain in good contact with them due to my implants. I go out almost twice a week meeting my friends and doing activities such as bowling and eating out which wouldn’t have been possible without implants. I can maintain concentration and not be overstimulated as easily, participating in conversations that I would not have done before.
Losing my implant was a huge wake up call at how crippling it was without it. I had to cancel many driving lessons, I couldn’t work as a lifeguard and had to make a call over the phone to someone with a voice I don't recognise on my non dominant ear. I felt I wasn’t able meet my friends and became socially withdrawn for a short period of time and couldn’t listen to music with the same enjoyment. My job as a lifeguard requires me to be able to listen and watch, which the implants help me out massively - many don’t think a deaf lifeguard is possible due to the water but having my aqua accessories has enabled this to happen, helping me to break unexpected barriers with my implants.
I am very hard working and despite there being barriers with my disability, I enjoy the process and challenge it takes to reach goals. All of these achievements show my dedication which will be mirrored in my undergraduate studies. When I am enthusiastic about a task or qualification, I go to all lengths to achieve and succeed in what I want of myself. Having implants has made me more aware of body language and has pushed me to start learning sign language. I am determined that my deafness will not hold me back in what I want to achieve in life and I will use it to my advantage helping other people who may struggle to verbally express their worries or emotions, rather than seeing my deafness as a disadvantage.
Clodagh Farrell March 2022