Claire can’t imagine life without her hearing dog Ivy. Here she tells her story as part of our 100 days, 100 stories campaign.
When my son Nathan was nine he was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. He was very poorly and would often be in severe pain during the night. I can’t wear my hearing implant at night, so I had specialist equipment to wake me should he need me. But as I am a restless sleeper, the vibrating pad would often end up on the floor.
The guilt I felt when waking up in the morning to find that my son had been crying all night and in too much pain to get out of bed to get me, was indescribable. I tried various equipment but nothing seemed to work. I was so scared of not waking up to my son that soon I stopped being able to sleep.
This continued for quite some time and the sleep deprivation had such an impact that I started having panic attacks and was unable to go to work.
A late diagnosis
At seven years old I was diagnosed as being profoundly deaf in my right ear and severely deaf in my left. Such a late diagnosis is uncommon nowadays thanks to the newborn screening programme.
I was fitted with a hearing aid in my left ear (I had no hearing at all in my right) which I absolutely hated, and life continued. By the time I was in my teens I was profoundly deaf in both ears, but still able to make use of the residual hearing I had to aid lip-reading.
Losing my hearing overnight
In my mid twenties I lost the little bit of hearing I had left. This happened quickly (literally overnight) and unexpectedly.
The cause of this hearing loss was put down to a virus that I had picked up. The impact this had on me was immense.
I found lipreading much harder without my hearing aid and couldn’t understand what Nathan, who was four at the time, was saying to me.
The frustration and upset this caused us both was terrible. Eventually my son became better at using British Sign Language (BSL) and my lip-reading improved.
My confidence took a battering and initially I hated going out and about by myself. Given time things slowly improved.
About two years later I took the big step of having a cochlear implant (a surgically implanted electronic device to help with hearing). The struggle I had to make the decision to go ahead with the operation is a whole other blog in itself!
Getting Ivy changed our lives
It was around this time that I got my hearing dog Ivy. To say she changed our lives is an understatement. Not only does she alert me to everyday sounds like the doorbell – but Nathan is also able to use the ‘call mum’ command should he need to. Ivy then wakes me up and leads me to Nathan.
I trust Ivy implicitly which gives me the peace of mind to be able to sleep. I simply don’t know what I would have done over the last few years without her.
I now have a partner who is hearing and able to hear Nathan, but Ivy is still an essential part of my family. She gives me confidence and I can’t imagine not having her. I am forever grateful to Hearing Dogs who trained and gave Ivy to me.
Claire is the Head of Training at disability charity Enhance the UK, and is Vice Chair of Bedfordshire Deaf Children’s Society. She works with teenagers as a communication support worker in colleges and tutors deaf teenagers one on one.