Reading author tells about deafness and hearing loss
by Jenny Minard
BBC Berkshire Reporter
Juliet England is publishing a book on hearing loss
Juliet England has been hard of hearing since birth and says it is just something she has had to deal with.
"It is something that has affected me at various stages of my life, work and studying," she said.
There are an estimated nine million deaf and hard of hearing people in the UK.
And she felt so passionate about helping people to understand the disability that she has written a book about it.
"I didn't feel like there was anything on the market about this, I don't think it has been particularly written about, yet it is an extremely interesting subject and there are so many aspects to it," Juliet, who lives in Caversham, said.
The book, which goes on sale on 1 May, helps people to understand the "invisible disability".
"Each time you have to explain to people that you have a problem it is quite annoying because they say, 'oh I'm sorry', and it is slightly patronising.
"I think, 'what are they apologising for?' It's not their problem.
"It is a hidden disability and also hearing is one of those things that when you are talking to someone else and you can't hear, it affects the other person as well because they get frustrated because they can't communicate fully - blindness is not like that."
Juliet's hearing problems gradually got worse but it wasn't until her 20s that she found real difficulties.
"It has got much worse over the course of the last 20 years. At school I tended to sit near the front and I was in a school that tended to have small classes, small groups.
"I did Spanish at A Level and there was only me and another girl, so there were only three of us anyway.
"At university I don't know how I managed things like the language lab but somehow I did.
"I seem to remember my French oral exam as being quite tricky but then I did quite well in the Spanish one.
"Somehow you manage and it was when I started work and had to speak on the telephone without a specially adapted phone that things started to become tricky.
"So I was at work when I started to have hearing aids. I would have been in my early 20s and since then over the years the hearing aids have been changed."
Juliet explained how despite the technology, relationships can be difficult.
"It can affect all sorts of relationships - personal relationships, family relationships and working relationship.
"That is why in the book I have been quite deliberate in outlining some various strategies and tips for communicating.
"I do it myself and I will interrupt people or barge into a conversation without realising you're interrupting someone rather rudely and you had no idea you were doing that."
Wearing hearing aids can help with hearing problems but there is a still a stigma attached to them as Juliet explained.
"My first reaction when I was told I would have to wear a hearing aid, along with many people, you feel quite upset you're worried about how it might affect your appearance and how you're going to cope with it.
"When you first learn how to use them it can be quite disorientating but you do just get on with it.
"It is second nature to me now and you get a bit flustered or stressed if you don't have them for any reason. For example, if the battery runs out which it can do unexpectedly or at short notice. But I really do think that now there is so much you can do with new technology.
"I do think people feel very embarrassed about wearing it unfortunately, and I would say in some places that there is still this lingering link that if you're deaf you are a bit thick - which you don't get with sight problems.
"Now I'm not saying that is the case with everyone, but it does happen because hearing aids are less common than for example glasses.
"There is also an association with age but I know the difference they make to my life and I wouldn't be without them."
Juliet manages to communicate with a range of technology in her home.
"Because I work for myself at home under the Government's Access to Work Scheme, I've got a text screen phone.
"When someone talks to me on the phone, their words come up on the screen as text and then I can read it, switch over very quickly to voice me and speak my response normally.
"It has been quite interesting having it. An operator does the typing so not everyone likes having their conversation being heard."
Juliet's friend Phil, who works at the Reading Post, explained how his deafness has affected him. He had his first hearing aid at the age of 13.
"I came to Reading University in 1996 and they gave me two hearing aids. When I went home I cried and I was really upset. It took a few months to get used to it.
"Now the technology has moved on I am really totally dependent on them. I've got a little toddler daughter and she loves chatting away.
"In the morning I rush to put my hearing aid in to hear what she is saying, usually it is, 'Daddy can I have some breakfast?' But I still love hearing every word she says I'm really grateful that the technology allows me to hear so much better.
"The iPlayer is one of the most fantastic inventions that has come out of the BBC for many years because it allows you to watch programmes when you want to watch them and it has subtitles for a lot of the programmes.
"We went on holiday and downloaded some programmes and watched Ashes to Ashes and Doctor Who with the subtitles which is something we would not normally be able to do."
Juliet said listening to the radio is one thing she would really like to be able to do.
"I would really enjoy listening to the radio. The technology must be there somewhere.
"I suppose the other thing on my phone is that I have an operator typing but there must be some sort of voice recognition software which would mean people didn't feel so self conscious because there wouldn't be someone else listening in."
Juliet England is publishing this book
This essential guide gives information on how hearing loss is caused, the things you can do to make life better for you or a close family member, and how to overcome the daily challenges of living with a hearing loss.
Education and work are dealt with, including rights and suggestions for teachers and employees.
Strategies for coping with deafness are also described - from the technology of hearing aids and cochlear implants to lip-reading and sign language.
Deafness and Hearing Loss - The Essential Guide is published on 1 May, 2010.
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