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Date: 21 September 2021
Hearing implant patient stories: Jonathan Cadoux-Hudson
I am a profoundly deaf university graduate with a cochlear implant and a determination to lead a normal life. I want to tell you about my experiences so you too can be encouraged to achieve your potential.
I became profoundly deaf at 7½ months old due to meningitis. From this time onwards I wore hearing aids until I had a cochlear implant.
I have been essentially deaf all my life as all my memories are of me being deaf. My main form of communication with people is through lip reading. I find lip reading an interesting subject when talking to people as they are surprised that I can lip read people up to ten metres away and they ask me how I can do it, but when asked I can never seem to give an answer as I do it without thinking and I can never turn it off mentally. I always go into lip-read mode when I look at people’s faces which I too seem to read better than most.
In my childhood I have always been integrated into the hearing community as my family and friends were all hearing. I never knew any deaf people as I was growing up, so in a way it made me part of the hearing world and I had to participate and join in with hearing people, things hearing people take for granted. This was especially so earlier in my life when emails or texting weren't accessible so I had to ask my parents or my older brother to arrange things for me resulting in less independence than my friends. From an early age I had to practice speaking and listening and my speech improved greatly due to some super speech therapists.
At the age of eleven I had an important choice to make: either going to the local college where most of my year and all my school friends were going or go to Torquay Boys Grammar School. I passed the entrance exam and went to Torquay Boys Grammar school as I knew it would push me to develop academically and as a person and I wanted to prove I was as good as any hearing child. It was a very strange feeling starting at that school as I was the only deaf person out of 1000 pupils and none of them had any experience of deaf people. It was hard for me in the first few months making friends and communicating with them but the school staff became more aware of my needs - for instance the need to speak slowly and directly at me so I could lip read and communicate back. One member of staff even shaved off his beard so I could lip read him! I learnt that starting in a fresh place takes time and needs for me to gain the confidence, to be outgoing and to talk people on an equal basis.
During my time at the grammar school I made some amazing friends who interestingly took the time to learn to lip read so we had whacky conversations across the room in boring classes without the teachers knowing! It was at this time that I learnt to be positive about the benefits of being deaf rather than looking at the downsides. This coincided with an acceptance that I would be deaf for the rest of my life.
A major opportunity occurred when I was 15 years old. A deaf person saw me playing for my local Cricket club and suggested I started playing deaf cricket. After a number of training sessions and trials I was invited to play with the England Deaf Cricket squad where I became a spinner. It was a disconcerting time in my life as I had never mixed with deaf people and they communicated mainly by sign language which I hadn't learnt so I found it initially hard to cope but I soon learnt sufficient sign language.
At the last minute I was asked to play for the England Deaf cricket team which was about to embark on a month’s tour of Australia. I went and thoroughly enjoyed myself visiting Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney. Dad, Mum and Grandma came out as well as an unofficial supporters club.
The second opportunity came when I was 16 after finishing my GCSEs when I was again given the opportunity of having a cochlear implant. I had been considered for one in 1990s but my parents had decided, at the time, that the downsides outweighed the advantages. Since then the cochlear implant technology had improved greatly and talking to others I felt that it would benefit me. I went for it and had the operation after a lot of tests. When the operation was completed I found the hardest bit was not having the cochlear switched on for a month (this gave the scar time to heal up) and not having the use of the hearing aids. This time made me realise how hard it is for people who are born totally deaf as I had massive problems understanding people with no sounds to help or to give me a clue as to what they meant.
It was a shock having the implant switched on as initially I heard a lot of confusing noises most of which I couldn’t initially make sense of. Over time I was able, with help, to make sense of more and more of these sounds. I had never really understood how hard it would be for me to relearn the entire English language in terms of the new sounds that I was able to hear- especially all the high and quiet pitch sounds which I previously could not hear. I had to keep pushing myself to keep doing the exercises even though it seemed like I wasn’t getting anywhere or achieving anything. The reason behind this is that the sounds that I was hearing from the cochlear implant were completely different from a hearing aid that I had currently had for the previous years of my life. I had the incredible fortune of having parents and a neighbour who kept pushing me to learn more and do the exercises but it shows what can be achieved with determination and willpower to keep going.
I did the whole process of relearning the cochlear sounds, during my 2nd year of A-Levels in which I was doing Chemistry, Physics, Maths and Further Maths. I thought at one point I would not manage to do everything but I did with the help of my friends. I applied to various universities during my A-Level year and managed to get a offer from Oxford University which was my dream - unfortunately it didn’t come to fruition as I didn’t quite get the grades required for the place. I ended up going to my second choice which was Swansea University.
By the time I got to Swansea University I had stopped having speech therapy and I started to try and be more outgoing. I met lots of other students and joined the hockey club during the first few months of starting university. This gave me a level of independence and boosted my self confidence. Whenever I think of this period I always feel happy knowing that I made the right decision having the cochlear implant as I doubt if I would have been as confident with hearing aids. During my four years at University I managed to improve my ability to discriminate sounds simply by socialising with as many people as I could and going into new situations. Though drinking and lip reading do not go well together!
I graduated from Swansea with a 2.1 Masters in Theoretical Physics, which I had to work very hard for and was ecstatic with the result. During the Christmas before I graduated, I decided to apply for various jobs, I went for the energy sector as I had always been very interested in that area. I managed to get past the application stage for EDF Energy though not without some problems! One obstacle was a proposed telephone interview! Though once they knew I was deaf they were at pains to ensure I was treated fairly. The selection process made me more confident in my ability to sort issues out as they arose- previously I had to rely on my parents. I have now found new ways to deal with situations which is energising as it means I am in control rather than someone else.
After various selection rounds, I and seventy hearing people were taken on by EDF from a pool of over 400 people who managed to get to the final stage. Currently I am working at Hinkley Point B (Nuclear Power Station) as a graduate trainee learning as much as I can about the nuclear business for a whole year, in which I will have to travel to various other nuclear power stations to gain experience of the different reactors. I love the job as it is both interesting and means that I can prove to myself and to other people that my deafness isn’t a hindrance. Of course there will be barriers in the way but I now have the confidence to find a way around them as I have a supportive company and friends
The last word from me is that, don’t feel like you are alone in the world, there are people around you who will always support you and help you get around or overcome obstacles that are standing between you and your potential, as in the end of the day we deaf people are all exactly the same as hearing people.
The Queen Elizabeth Hospital Audiology Centre has achieved national accreditation with the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS). Accreditation number: IQIPS 7978.