Frustrated. That’s how I feel right now. Others around me are feeling frustrated too but mine is heighten further as we are stuck on a train going nowhere fast. They can hear the announcements but all I heard is garbled words. I have literally no idea what is being said thanks to my hearing.

“Oh but you have a cochlear implant?! That restores hearing doesn’t it?! Ooh it’ll be just the same as a hearing person right?!” No. Quite simply no. A cochlear implant improves the sound quality but it’s still not on a par with someone with normal hearing.

People take hearing for granted. They jack up the volume on their headphones, mobiles, tv and other gadgets and when told they run risk of damaging their ears roll their eyes and say “Won’t happen to me!”

The irony is that I’m the one often telling my own family to turn the noise down as it’s too loud and I’m the deafest person in our house. That’s got to be saying something if a deaf person saying it’s too loud surely?!

You take it for granted that you can go out in a group of people and hear every single word. You walk along the road chatting and I’m there desperately trying to pick out and piece the words together to make sense of what is being said so that I can feel part of the conversation too. Imagine doing that sat in a loud meeting room, pub or anywhere where there is more than two of you in a room day after day.

Imagine being me trying to listen to information, processing what is said and understanding what to do whilst still listening to next bit of conversation. Now throw in having to write that info down whilst trying to lipread at the same time in a noisy room. I don’t just mean people talking, I’m talking about background noise like photocopiers, coffee machine, telephones ringing and so on.

Maybe then you’ll understand my frustration, why I’m so exhausted at the end of every interaction and why it’s a struggle for me to follow conversations and not feel like I’m stood on the edge every single day.


“0ld Spice”

“Old Spice…” the mere mention of the word jolted me from my daydream and I instantly thought of my Dad whilst out with colleagues from work for lunch.

It’s been a long time since I’ve heard about or seen “Old Spice” and it’s difficult to recall the exact smell now. Yet I suspect if I smelt it as it was back in the 80’s I would instantly recognise the smell for it was my Dad’s aftershave of choice.

I recall the bottle of aftershave on the dresser placed next to his comb and brushes that he used to use to groom his beard. He has a cracking beard and could probably give hipsters beardies of today a run for their money in the beard stake!

I recall snuggling up to him and resting my face against his beard and thinking it was so prickly whilst finding the familiar scent of “Old Spice” aftershave so comforting at the same time.

I wonder if my Dad would still be wearing “Old Spice” if he were here now, or whether he would have been persuaded to switch to another product?

“Old Spice” there’s nothing extraordinary about it, but for me it reminds me of my Dad who is much loved and missed. As the years go by it is harder to remember stuff about my Dad, or to remember how he sounded but little triggers like these help to keep the memory of my Dad alive.

“Ten Years…”

Ten years ago what was left of my hearing in my left ear was removed and replaced with a cochlear implant.

Ten years ago I was lying in a hospital bed wondering if the operation has worked whilst my head throbbed in pain.

Ten years ago I entered a world of silence for three weeks until they switched the implant on. We waited with bated breath and suddenly garbled sound rushed in sending my brain into overdrive trying to figure out what was being said.

Ten years on I hear sound. Some sounds are familiar, others new and some still to be discovered.

An amazing ten years of hearing with a cochlear implant. That’s something worth celebrating right?!

“Decrease in sound…”

For a wee while I’ve been having some issues with my cochlear implant.

Batteries were barely making it to 2 days and the sound quality appeared to have dropped which made it harder to hear in busy settings.

Initally I thought maybe the change in brand of batteries given out was the issue, or that I had got a bad batch. My local audiology clinic informed me that they hasn’t had any other complaints and it must be my implant.

So I contacted the implant team at Manchester who sent me some parts to swap over on the outer bit of my processor. This still didn’t resolve the issue despite me tweaking and replacing various parts.

The sound was definitely getting worst and I must admit that there was a small niggle in the back of my mind that maybe there was something wrong with the internal processor as it’s been in my head for 10 years this August (amazing huh?!). The final straw for me earlier this week was struggling to hear a colleague sat across from me, as all I could think whilst she was speaking was, “She sound so muffled! There’s something not right here.” So I got in touch with the Implant Team at Manchester and arranged to go in to be seen.

So off I went taking the girl child with me on the train. Got a taxi from the station to the hospital. Was very glad that the girl child was with me as really struggled to hear what people said when they were giving us directions to the audiology department.

Was seen by a lovely member of the audiology team who took apart my processor, replaced various bits on it but it still sounded muffled. And then I decided to query the question that I had originally asked my local clinic. Was it possible that the change in brand of batteries would make a different? I then got out 2 packets of batteries that I had on me to show her. One was an old packet of batteries which I had forgotten about and found in my bag earlier and the other was a new packet which I had pop in there as per routine when going out. She took one look at the new packet and said “These aren’t cochlear implant batteries. These are hearing aids batteries.” The mystery was solved! 

She gave me the correct batteries to put in and honestly it was like coming out of water, I could hear clearly again and the sound was SO LOUD after these past few months of subdued hearing. 

The moral of the story? Trust your gut instincts and read the small print!!

To be fair to my local clinic, the boxes and the packets do look very similar. My Manchester Audiologist did say that those giving out the batteries (usually a receptionist) may not realise the differences in the power between hearing aid and cochlear implant batteries.

So now I have a letter to wave at them issued by Manchester, and I will definitely be checking all newly issued boxes in future when picking up batteries.

“The Crazy Bunch”

A number of years ago when I was at Uni I met a group of friends who become my kindered spirits and life long buddies. We nicknamed ourselves “The Crazy Bunch” due to the different personalities we had in our group.

In fact if you had met us at the start of our friendship, you would have been puzzled as to why we were all friends, due to our different personalities, interests and outlook on life. Yet somehow we bonded and became firm friends.

At times over the years there have been moments when the friendship has been tested. Life has made it more tricky too, to arrange regular meet ups or to be able to chat for lengthily periods over the telephone.

Arranging a time to meet up has changed over the years, as in the past it would have involved dressing up, a few drinks, maybe a meal and a night out in town partying into the early hours.  Nowadays it’s planning a venue to meet, arranging activities to appeal to our families, with a cheeky drink or two in the evening whilst lounging on sofas in our pyjamas struggling to stay awake past ten o’clock!

As a group of friends we have seen our fair share of lows and highs in life. Throughout these times we’ve been supported by one another and drawn strength from this. We know that we can be totally honest with one another and that advice/support given will be the truth and not sugar coated. Most of all we know that regardless of what has happen, our little group totally has our back if we need them, and we draw strength from this.

We may not meet regularly or get the chance to chat for long, but when we do get together it’s like putting on a comfy pair of slippers, knowing that we can be totally at ease in each other company and that we don’t have to put on a front, because we all know one another so well.

I am so thankful for The Crazy Bunch’s friendship, love and support because without them my life would have been so much poorer.

I can only but hope that each of our children are as fortunate as we were, to find  a group of friends with whom they can totally be themselves, and know that whatever happens in life, their friends totally has their back.

“Father Figure”

Growing up my Dad was my hero. He was the centre of my universe. Full of wisdom and keen to encourage us to be creative and questioning of the world around us.

He was firm but loving in his parenting approach. Always took time to listen no matter how insignificant the issue was, because if it was inportant to us, then it was to him too.

He made sure we knew that we were loved, giving us cuddles and telling us that he loved us.

So when he died, my world came crashing down as I was lost without him in my life.

Then along came another man into my Mum’s life. At first it was hard not to compare him to our Dad or to find fault.

Gradually I came to love and respect my Step Dad as mine for he show love and affection towards us even when it must have seem an impossible task.

Two men totally different in personalities, skills and knowledge. But both strong wise men with hearts full of love wanting the best for their family.

I was told once by a friend that I was lucky because I had two great father figures in my life which for some people they never get. My friend is right, I was and am blessed with having known and loved two men who cared for me as their child.  They both played an important role in shaping and defining who I am today. Without them my life may have well been different today. 

I am a parent now myself and I watch my children with their father. I see so many of the qualities of my own Dad and Step Dad in him that it makes me smile knowing that I choose to be with a man who reflects the best of both of my fathers. I can only hope that my children will recognise and know that they too are blessed with a loving father who takes time to invest in them because he cares deeply about them.

“Sorting The Wheat From The Chaff.”

Unless you’ve been burying your head in the sand you’ll know that Election Day is almost upon us.

It can be confusing to know where to place your cross in the voting booth when having been bombarded with so much information from various political parties that your head is reeling.  The difficulty comes in sorting the wheat from the chaff, knowing what is a solid promise and not one built upon lies or unlikely to come to fruitation. 

So how do we make a choice knowing that our vote will make a difference. Note I said make a difference when so many out there say they don’t vote as it won’t make a difference. Every single vote made does make a difference. Your vote could be the one to swing the vote in favour of an MP in a closely contested seat.  Your vote will make a difference not only locally but nationally in the decisions and policies made.

When you vote consider the following factors; how will it impact on me if this MP/Party is in power? How will it impact on my family and friends? How will it impact on my local area? How will it impact nationally not just in the short term but long term? 

Think about whether the candidates up for election in your area will be proactive in listening to you/the local community, providing support and taking action that is of benefit to the wider community both in the short and long term. They will be your voice and vote for the next few years in Parliament, so don’t be waylaid by what political party they are in, or their Leader because at the end of the day it is them that speak and act for you in Parliament.

So use your vote wisely, weigh up the pros and cons, making sure that you make your vote count by putting a cross in the box of the candidate that you feel will work in the interests of those that voted for them, rather than toe the party line or to prioritise their own view/interests above everyone else.

“The Choice”

Last night many parents dropped off their excited kids off at a concert in Manchester smiling and telling them to have a good time. 

A few hours later their world was shattered by one person who decided in his warped view that he had the right to destroy life for his cause.

Those left behind have to pick up the pieces of their lives without their loved one. Most will torture themselves with the question “Why did I let them go?” all because of one person’s action. If he hasn’t chosen to act the way he did, those kids would be home safe with their families. Instead their parents are having to sit by their beds willing them to win their battle against injury or worst still having to do the unimaginable planning a funeral.

Already there is a backlash against anyone seen as “foreign” or from sharing the same religion. These people are no different from you or I. They did not carry out this senseless action. 

The only person our anger should be directed at is the person who deliberately carried out this action. He made that choice. He didn’t have to but choose to do so. 

Your average person regardless of race, age, gender or beliefs does not make choices to kill others. We all have the choice to make good and bad decisions in our lives that may impact on others. The responsibility of that lies solely with us and we should not be blaming or taking out our anger on those who have nothing to do with this.

“Giving to others.”

Yesterday I saw a post that our local food bank was making an appeal for donations as stocks are running very low due to increase requests for help.

Usually when I go shopping, I always buy extra to donate and drop off at local collection point. It’s just something I have done for the last couple of years as a way of regularly giving back to those in need.

It was clear from the post that they urgently needed more supplies. I figured that it couldn’t wait until my next food shop for me to be able to contribute, so decided to raid my cupboards for items. I managed to put together a large bag of items to donate.

This morning I took the bag down to the local Food Bank who were very grateful to receive the items. I was shown around, and I could see for myself how bare the shelves were.

When I asked why they have faced increase numbers asking for help, I was told that the recent changes in benefits to universal tax credits has had a huge impact on many people. People are having to wait several weeks for their claims to be processed and backdated. That’s at least six weeks without any money coming in to pay the bills or to feed the family.

Some folk are trapped in low earning jobs or irregular jobs that vary in payment made. They struggle to progress further in finding better paid jobs as simply do not have the means or funding to do the training that would enable them to do this.

Some people end up needing help due to unfortunate circumstances. One such person was someone who had recently started a new job and then was injured in an accident. Wasn’t able to claim sick pay and lost his job. 

What struck me was how easily that person could be you or I if we had a change in our circumstances.

How many of us overspend in the shops, buying too much stuff and sometimes throwing stuff away? What if instead of cramming our cupboards full, we reduce it by sharing with others in need? Think just how much of an impact we could have in changing the lives of those around us by regularly giving to ensure that they aren’t having to worry about where their next meal is coming from, or having to make a choice between paying to keep a roof over the heads or feed their children?

I challenge you to open your cupboards, fill a bag of goods, take it to your nearest food bank and not be moved when you hear the stories of why people have to swallow their pride and ask for help to feed their families.

“Three years of breastfeeding…”

Today we have reached the milestone of breastfeeding until age three years.

I didn’t intend to breastfeed this long. It has just sort of happened.

At the beginning of our journey my baby fed and fed for over an hour that the MIdwives had to wait to do their checks as he refused to stop feeding and got distressed if removal was attempted!

He had a strong suck and this made breastfeeding painful for the first few weeks. Eventually we figured it out and things settled down. At times such as when he was teething we faced challenges again, and it was hard to resist the urge to jack it all in. I’m so glad we persisted as he’s growing up to be a secure healthy child full of confidence and joy.

How long will we continue for, that I don’t know, as he is gradually reducing his feeds. What I do know is that I’ll enjoy those moments whilst we have them because one of these days he’ll stop just as nature intended, having being fully nurtured by my body.