Friday, 29 January 2016

Deafinitely Girly 'hears' a fire alarm

It's Friday. I'm thankful. Mainly because it's Friday. But also because I've discovered something rather marvellous about the place I'm working at the moment....

Earlier in the week, the fire alarm went off. It was a planned test. I knew about it in advance. But the strangest thing happened.

You see, I can't hear things like fire alarms. Not even with my posh Phonak Nathos hearing aids in. Not even, if I stand right under the alarm. I hear nothing. But today, in the small office where I am working, where there's a radio playing that's loud enough for me to hear, I did notice that the fire alarm was going off.

How? Everything else got quieter. Namely the radio. While the alarm rang for 30 seconds (I'd been warned this was how long it would ring for) everything else sounded like it had been put on mute. Muffled. Like I'd turned off my hearing aids but left them in my ears.

OK, I reasoned, so things like the general hum of conversation would die down during the alarm as people struggled to hear over it, but the radio? The voice of the person sat right by me? That was more unexpected.

And I think it's great. You see, what I've started realising over the last few years of wearing hearing aids is that it's not about getting 'conventional' hearing back. It's about getting anything back.

It's so different to my ultra short-sightedness. I mean, if I left the optician with mediocre vision that sometimes meant I could see things I had never seen before, I'd march straight back in and demand they did something about it. But it's different with my ears.

I know that I will never have perfect hearing. That no matter what I do, I will never be able to make out conversation without lipreading, listen to the radio and catch more than the odd word and hear things like babies crying at a distance, phones ringing and indeed, fire alarms ringing.

But if my ears can give me a clue that this is happening. If I know that when the office sounds muted, then the fire alarm is going off, then that is most definitely better than nothing.

And that makes today a very thankful Friday.

Have a good one peeps.

Monday, 25 January 2016

Deaf Girly's working it out

I've been thinking about a lot about what happened last week with the whole 'your deafness means you can't do this job' rejection email.

I've been thinking about it in a way that took me back to when I first moved to London and was struggling to work out how to explain my deafness to new employers. Back then, I made it seem like it was nothing. I tried my hardest to use the phone. I was terrified that if I didn't, I wouldn't do well. I wonder now if I was basically right.

Back then, I never relaxed. I was always on edge about being deaf. Ready to spring into action to hide any evidence that I was struggling. This meant most nights I went home exhausted and miserable from pretending to be someone I could never be.

Maturity and a need to be less exhausted, meant that I grew out of that habit and relaxed more about my deafness at work. I tried to hide it less. I asked for more help. I acknowledged my limits but offered my employers my ways of working around them to get the same results as hearing people. I dropped my guard.

Until last week. Until dropping my guard meant getting overlooked for some work I should have been given a fair shot at.

The thing is though, deep down, I know that someone with hearing who can pick up the phone and communicate effortlessly and instantly with people at the other end, is technically a more attractive candidate that me. OK, so I can offer alternatives, but as someone once said to me, as she picked up the phone and dialled the number of the person I was waiting for an email from, 'Things are so much quicker by phone' as she smugly trumped me to get the much-needed information, leaving me red-faced and humiliated.

Since last week, my head has been full of questions. Things like: What makes me better than the person with the perfect hearing? How can I demonstrate that on my CV and in person? Is this going to happen again? How can I stop it happening again?

I've began wondering whether I should be 'trying harder' with the phone. But I'm not sure how to.  I've tried amplifiers in the past and the t-loop hooks for my hearing aids, but they don't really help. I still don't get that clarity of speech. Without lipreading, I get nothing but noise. Without lipreading, I feel like I am the least attractive person in the CV line-up for work.

'So what are you going to do about it?' a nagging voice has been saying in my head all week.

And honestly, right now, I don't know. But I'm on the case. Whether it's finding a new bit of technology that magically makes using the phone easier (all suggestions welcome) or working out a new way of explaining that I don't use the phone without it sounding like a massive negative, I will work it out.

Because I am determined not to let this happen again. I am determined to show that I am as good as that person with the identical CV who can use the phone. That I am worthy of the jobs I am more than qualified to do.

Happy Monday peeps.

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Deaf Girly's employment issue

This year, it will be thirteen years since I stepped out of my post graduate course and into the big bad world of work. Thirteen years of working my up, in and around a career I had dreamt of doing since I could talk.

Recently, I decided to go self employed to enable me to pursue my own stuff – writing mainly. I've written a book you know, it's not perfect yet, but it's coming and maybe one day, someone will publish it and yay, that'll be great.

In my thirteen years of work, I've been pretty lucky. I can count on one hand the number of times I've felt that I probably missed out on a job because of my deafness. And until today, I could count on one finger the times I definitely knew.

But today, the second time occurred and I was totally unprepared for it.

You see, I'm lucky enough to get most of my work from one amazing company. A company that has always supported me and my deafness. Who makes no issue of it. Who knows that I can do my job with or without ears. But I thought I should probably put myself out there a bit more to ensure all the days of the month were filled with paid work. Or as many as possible.

So today, in response to me sending in my CV for work, a company contacted me and requested a short phone call pre-interview stage after noting I had all the skills they were looking for. I had scrutinised the job advert for any mention of needing to use the phone and there were none. So I wrote a quick, polite reply explaining that I was 'hard of hearing' – I felt less likely to scare them than 'deaf' – and could we do it over email.

'It'll be fine,' I thought confidently. 'This is 2016. People don't discriminate against hearing loss when the job description makes no mention of phone use.'

'It'll be fine,' I thought less confidently some time later, when I'd had no reply.

'Maybe it won't be fine,' I thought sadly, as I realised that someone somewhere was working out how to get out of telling me I fitted the requirements of the role.

And then a few moments later I was put out of in to my misery.

It wasn't fine. I wasn't suitable for the role.

But the thing is, how – from the description of 'Hard of Hearing' I gave can that person who has never met me know that I am not suitable for the role? How, without asking how I've very successfully made a career over the last thirteen years – all visible on my CV – can that person possibly judge my efficiency of communicating without the conventional telephone call?

I would understand it if I'd applied for something massively outside of my 'hearing' limits. If I'd applied to work as a receptionist, PA, call centre person, or any of the other roles where hearing is kind of essential.

I mean, I would secretly love to be a personal assistant. If I had hearing, it'd be the job I'd do for fun. Organising, sorting, making things happen. But I would NEVER apply to be one as a deaf person because I just don't think without hearing I'd make a very good one.

That is however irrelevant because I chose a career where hearing shouldn't be an issue. With careful guidance from an amazing person early on, I chose a section of my industry where I would face the least discrimination. And until today it's worked marvellously.

Earlier, as I was having a cry in the toilets, I realised how lucky I am to have got this far and faced so little discrimination. How lucky I am to have had amazing support from amazing employers. And how lucky I am that I won't have to work for the people who today deemed me not acceptable for a role I could have definitely made work. If they'd just given me a chance.

Sometimes that things that aren't meant to be are definitely for the best because they leave us free to pursue our proper dreams and the things that are true to who we actually are, rather than just earn us money.

Happy hump-day peeps