Coping with Hearing loss – my Dad’s perspective

Before writing any more from “My Dad’s Hearing Aid Book – the start of a new life”, I think we should have a few lines about my Dad.
Dad died 11 years ago, now, in England – where he was born and lived. He was clever – a good engineer, a significant figure in British Rail, a thoughtful man in many ways, and a hard worker. He was a good father to me, spending hours and hours on the side of athletic tracks holding a stopwatch and whistle while I trained. He progressively became profoundly deaf.
Deafness caught up with my Dad when he was a young professional with a young family. He tells the path to getting medical recognition of his problem as a tough and unsympathetic one. His career suffered, and his young children were embarrassed. We thought that Dad said such odd things sometimes. We had no idea of the cause. It was tough for my mother too, and it got tougher. They were restricted in what they could do socially, and conversation was a big effort for him.
Dad had a progressive deafness condition caused “otosclerosis” which today, if caught early enough, can be very successfully halted by surgery.
Dad eventually managed to get a hearing aid. This was the 60’s, and hearing aids were not what they are today. They were large, and sophisticated signal processing was more than 40 years into the future. There was no cochlear implant, and there were few services.
Dad’s hearing got worse and worse, and he developed more strategies to cope, to compensate for the lack of good amplification. And as time went on the technology got better, little by little, and he was always there to try and get the best. And he used the technology well. One day, and specifically against the advice of his young audiologist daughter, he had surgery, but it was too late, and he lost the hearing in that ear completely.
Meanwhile, sympathetic to other people with deafness, he founded and became active in the Friends of the Royal Victorian School for the Deaf, in Derby, and that lead directly to schoolgirl-me starting voluntary work there.
I don’t suppose I was very useful. I used to take the children out on the weekends, or generally help with weekend activities. Eventually, this lead to me being a school assistant, in my gap year. Chiefly I learnt about the huge impact that hearing loss has, and that there was a huge need to improve the assistive technologies. I learnt a lot about trends and theories in deaf education – how you can only have a fully oral-aural education if there is good access to sound, and I observed first hand the terrible frustration of the children who had little ability to communicate.
I also learned that I had not got the patience to be a teacher.
So, I pursued the path of a scientist – eventually an audiological scientist, and later a PhD from an engineering faculty.
And so at last, after a career in University teaching, clinical work, technology leadership, research, cochlear implant work and commercialization I am now in the position where I can finally get top quality technology, designed by leading scientists and engineers to thousands of people at a very cheap price.
My Dad introduced me to the need, taught me the work ethic to pursue my goals and dreams, and was very conscious of the need to try and do good on our short time on earth. Thanks Dad – I’m doing my best.

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