Almost exactly 21 ½ years old

This week we feature the second guest blog from author Emily Owen…

Pardon? What?

If it were possible to wear words out through overuse, I would have single-handedly rendered these two extinct.

But until I was almost exactly 21 ½ years old, I rarely said “What?”

Or “Pardon?”

In fact, they may have been in danger of extinction through lack of use.

The hearing in my right ear was perfect so, despite being deaf in my left, as long as I positioned myself correctly I could hear a proverbial pin drop.

And I was expert at positioning myself correctly.

I had to be, my innate nosiness demanded that I didn’t miss a thing.

Then, when I was almost exactly 21 ½ years old, “What?” and ”Pardon?” became my mantra.

Due to a condition called Neurofibromatosis Type 2, I lost all my hearing. In my case (though not necessarily typically), overnight.

A benign tumour pressing on my auditory nerve had to be surgically removed.

When it left, silence moved in.

Slightly unexpectedly for me, when the tumour left it was accompanied by my confidence. I’d anticipated that I’d struggle, just not how much.

I didn’t want to leave the house.

I didn’t want to see friends.

I just wanted to hide from the sounds I couldn’t hear.

Gradually, very gradually, confidence decided to move back in.

One step at a time.

I was brave enough to leave the house.

I began to see friends.

I began to meet stranger’s eyes as I passed them, rather than pointedly stare at the pavement.

The day I not only met their eyes but said “Good Morning” to someone as we walked our dogs in the park was a momentous day indeed. And yes, I did hurry on so there would be no follow up chat – one step at a time…

It was not long before my two-word mantra grew. What and Pardon were joined by “No.”

Friends began to say, “you should write your Autobiography.”

I laughed. Apart from anything else, who would want to read it?!

“No.”

Then strangers began to say, “you should write your story.”

I didn’t laugh then. Outwardly, anyway. I was politer with strangers than I was with friends.

Still: ”No.”

I did begin writing.

Just not writing about me.

And that’s how I liked it.

Publishers suggested I write my story.

“No.”

I started speaking to groups about my story, many of whom suggested I write the book.

“No.” No, no, no, no, no.

But, in the end, beginning to lose count, I thought: ‘how many no’s does it take to make a yes?’

And I realised it was the exact number of no’s I’d said.

So, albeit reluctantly, I made a yes.

And I began to write my story so far.

If you want a synopsis well, I guess you’ve just read it.

If you’d like to know more, I’d be honoured if you read the book. I promise it’s not simply a more detailed description of the momentous day I walked my dog in the park (although, thinking about it, perhaps it could have been: Jasper was a very special dog).

My memoir is called: ‘Still Emily – Seeing rainbows in the silence’.

Life changed that day when I was almost exactly 21 ½ years old.

I didn’t only lose my hearing and my confidence.

I lost myself.

I lost who I was.

Eventually, through pain-full times, I came to realise that I was still there.

Still Emily will be published on May 11th 2016.

9781910786437

Book launch in Leicester – everyone welcome! Details here.

Check out Emily’s promotional video here

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Start with a Smile

This weeks guest blogger is Emily Owen author of her autobiography ‘Still Emily’ which is due for publication on May 11th.

Start with a Smile

I could hear.

Then I couldn’t.

Overnight, I’d lost my hearing.

All of it.

I was deaf (still am).

I joined the 11 million people in the UK who have less than perfect hearing.

When I eventually began to emerge from the shock and depression and scariness of sudden silence, I picked up my ‘surviving hearing loss in a hearing world’ guidebook.

Or I would have done, had such a book existed….

The first time I told an assistant in a shop, “I’m deaf”, she looked terrified.

It was like looking in a mirror: I was terrified, too.

Where did we go after “I’m deaf”?

Neither of us knew.

I knew I could verbally tell her, “I’m deaf,” because I grew up with hearing and speech.

She knew she could hear me say, “I’m deaf,” because, well, she could hear.

What we didn’t know was how to bridge the hearing/deaf divide.

How to meet in the middle.

How to co-exist.

Since that day, I’ve had two choices.

  1. Become a hermit.
  2. Compile a bit of a guidebook of my own.

Tempting though option 1 often is, I went for option 2 (most of the time).

The first entry in my guidebook says, ‘remove the full stop after “I’m deaf.”’

Here are three tips for (hearing) people when they are met with the terror of hearing, “I’m deaf.”

Three tips for removing that full stop.

  1. Remember to relax.

Unless you happen to have a PHD or equivalent in communication, no one expects you to be an expert in dialoguing with deaf people.

We get that you are probably out of your comfort zone when you meet us.

Believe it or not, so are we when we meet you!

We don’t automatically know how to bridge that divide either.

But let’s start with a smile.

  1. Remember that communicating is about getting a message across.

If you and I can work out how you and I can bridge that deaf/hearing divide, that’s enough.

I speak a bit of sign language. My god-daughter doesn’t.

One day, in an effort to get me to understand the thrilling-to-a-three year old tale I kept misunderstanding, she resorted to waving her arms around.

She was trying to copy sign language.

She looked more like an over worked windmill.

But the combination of seeing her lips and seeing the windmill actually helped me.

To my shame, I can’t now recall this story that so obviously rocked her little world.

But I know I understood it at the time.

I’m also pretty sure that not many people use the windmill method.

And that’s ok.

In our own way, message was received and understood.

  1. Remember that we’re all different.

So you met someone last week who was deaf? And they could lipread what you said to them? Well that’s great. But, guess what?

We can’t all lipread.

A bit like just because some people can sing Opera, it doesn’t mean everyone can.

Some of us who can’t hear prefer to lipread, some prefer things written down, some prefer sign language, some prefer typing, some prefer….

Obviously, unless possibly you have the aforementioned PHD, no one expects you to be fluent in sign language but we’re pretty sure you can write things down. Or type them into your phone.

A good way to get started is to write/type, “how do you prefer to communicate?”

*note the question mark, not full stop*

And don’t forget your smile……

9781910786437