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      Hearing loss: John's story

      John, a former headmaster, shares the impact that hearing loss had on his work and the equipment that helped him.

      I was the headmaster of a large primary school - over 500 pupils - and started to notice a change in my ability to hear what the children were saying to me both inside the classroom and out in the playground in the late 1990s. I was also experiencing difficulties hearing members of staff at staff meetings.

      I was starting to experience difficulties with phone calls - particularly from female parents. Quite often I would ask them to call into school to discuss their particular problem or query on a one to one basis - as I could generally hear what they were saying in the quietness of my office. I felt that I could deal with such one-to-one conversations. At parents’ evenings after I had delivered my presentation I would have to walk into the body of the audience to hear their questions. This I found to be very stressful.

      When I was in a classroom I was finding it harder and harder to hear what the children were saying - I seemed to have lost the ability to hear the upper range of sounds which related to children of 5 to 12 years. If anyone whispered to me at a meeting I was unable to hear anything they were saying.

      In 2000 I had a heart attack and underwent triple bypass surgery - as a result I had to consider early retirement from my school. When I made enquiries with the Department of Education they said they would not grant my request on the basis of my heart surgery alone. However, when I mentioned my hearing loss and some of the problems associated with it, they agreed to grant me early retirement. I therefore retired in 2001 aged 55.

      Following my retirement I had my hearing tested and two hearing aids fitted by the NHS.

      My daughter had attended an information morning at a local cancer charity where someone from Action on Hearing Loss was speaking. When she came home she suggested that we should go down to the premises in Adelaide Street to find out if there was anything available which would help me.

      I explained that my family were becoming more and more frustrated by my inability to hear what was being said. I was introduced to Melissa, who spent time taking down details of my experiences. She was extremely helpful in recommending a number of possible aids which might improve my ability to hear. I was allowed to borrow a couple of devices to try out at home for a period of 14 days. 

      The item which I decided to trial over the fortnight was the Roger Pen and transmitter, which was very discrete but very expensive. L428 Roger MyLink

      During the trial period I had a number of meetings with organisations I belong to and I brought along my Roger Pen. I was thinking of resigning from these committees due to the fact that I was finding it more and more difficult to hear what everyone was saying. I explained to my colleagues about my hearing problem and what the Roger Pen did and everyone was more than happy to allow me to use the equipment. I assured everyone that it did NOT record what they were saying and only amplified the sound for my benefit. 

      The Roger Pen has enabled me to continue my voluntary work on a number of committees as well as allowing me to watch, and more importantly hear what is being said on television programmes - beforehand I tended not to watch very much television as I couldn’t follow the dialogue. The Roger Pen goes with me most of the time but I do need to be very careful that I do not leave it behind me - it could be a very expensive mistake.  My wife always asks me, when I return home, if I have remembered to bring it back with me. My fellow committee members would also ask if I have remembered to lift my Roger Pen.

      I think there is always a reluctance to seek help and advice for a hearing problem and one tries to devise your own strategies to deal with the problem. I would probably not have called into the Action on Hearing Loss premises if it had not been for my daughter’s chance attendance at the cancer charity information morning. 

      I was aware of the building in Adelaide Street, as it is beside the bus stop which I would use regularly, but I didn’t know about the wealth of equipment inside to help those with mild hearing problems.

      It is an excellent facility which I feel is underused due to people thinking that the only help they can get is from the NHS. Perhaps GPs should be made more aware of the equipment available to those patients on their books who have hearing problems.

      My advice: visit Action on Hearing Loss today, don’t delay!