If you read my post earlier this month about going to night classes, you may also remember that I have done a few different jobs in my time. I currently work as a teaching assistant supporting children and their teachers in a small, friendly primary school in Wales. I’ve done this job for 11 years but now I have to quit the job I love.
I usually like to take a light-hearted approach in my posts
but believe me, I don’t feel light-hearted about this. I don’t want to be all “woe is me!”, but I may get slightly like that. I’ll edit the worst bits out, I promise…
I’ll start at the beginning so grab yourself a coffee!
I first was told I was losing my hearing when I was 18. I worked in a cozy office with 9 other people where the loudest noise was the trilling of the telephone. The phones rang a LOT. We also had a large fridge which was used to store medicines (I worked for the NHS) and you know the sound a fridge makes, right?
It was my mother who first suggested I might be going deaf and so I arranged a hearing test with one of my colleagues. I was shocked when she said yes; I wasn’t hearing as well as I should be. She referred me to the ENT department at the hospital where they confirmed a hearing impairment which didn’t require hearing aids at that time. My hearing loss was irreversible, would only get worse and couldn’t be corrected by surgery. They kept me ‘on the books’ and I had a follow up appointments at Audiology clinic every 12 months.
Five years later…
I was working in a large, busy office in the same hospital where I had enjoyed (!) lots of appointments over the years. It was very noisy with phones ringing, printers printing and people talking. There was a radio too, right above my desk! This was the year that I was recommended a hearing aid.
I was 23 years old! Only OLD people wore hearing aids which whistled and never seemed to help them hear anyway! My hearing was worse, but I coped very well and I don’t think my colleagues even knew I was hard of hearing. A few of my friends did, but it wasn’t a big deal. Hearing aids?! Ppffftt! No thank you! My situation at work improved a little as I moved departments and worked in a smaller office with much less noise. This re-inforced my belief that I could get by without the hearing aid.
And I did – for nearly 20 years! Sitting here writing this I feel so angry at my younger self. Why was I so stubborn? What was the point of refusing to wear hearing aids? What did I achieve? Nothing! Well I did achieve something – I managed to irritate the hell out of my husband, my friends, my family and probably my colleagues! Wow, good for me!
Twenty years later…
(nearly) I gave up working to have my children and while they were pre-school I used to child-mind from home. It was easy to hide my hearing loss as we were always busy at play barns or toddler groups. Time spend at home was usually ‘quiet time’ – lunch, naps and stories and I could cope in that environment. Everything changed however when I got my present job. I made it through the interview in a quiet library (no problems there) and on my first day in the classroom I realised that I was SO deaf.
I could barely interpret what the children were saying and they spoke so quickly. The infant children sounded like Disney’s Chip ‘n Dale! A quick call to Audiology was made and before long I was sporting 2 hearing aids.
A whole new world!
It’s not hard to describe the feeling of having something you’ve lost restored to you, even if it’s not in mint condition. I was over the moon. Adjusting to hearing aids takes a while as your brain learns to hear again. It wasn’t perfect but I could cope in the classroom, on the school-yard and I wasn’t getting on everyone’s nerves anymore! If this was a Disney film, I would roll the credits and play an uplifting tune about now, but I’m sorry to tell you (if the title of the post hadn’t given it away) that this doesn’t have a happy ending.
10 years later…
Tinnitus is something that I’ve suffered for a long time, and I wrote about my experience last month if you would like to read about it. Over the last 12 months it has worsened and my hearing has deteriorated even more. I knew towards the middle of last year that I was struggling to do my job properly. It was almost like it was before hearing aids; trying to interpret what the children were saying and asking them to repeat themselves. It’s exhausting. All this and trying not to look stupid in front of the children finally made my mind up this summer to leave. Damn my ears!
It was an easy decision in the end
There was nothing else to be done really. I feel relieved. But it will be hard to go. I’ve made such good friends at school and have loved working with the children. Thinking back now on my time as a teaching assistant, I can honestly say it’s a great job. From mud-rock masks to Christmas concerts, I’ve enjoyed it all immensely.
I’m not looking at this as the end though, but as a new opportunity, focusing on what I can do, rather than what I can’t.
Thank you to those of you who have stayed with me to the end. It is very much appreciated.