Deaf for a day: Evening News reporter faces ‘solitary experience’

To investigate the impact of losing a vital sense, Evening News reporter Shona Elliott had noise-blocking implants fitted.

Tuesday, 12th November 2019, 6:00 am
Instead of heading into the news room Shona Elliott went to “House of Hearing” to have implants fitted to block up her ears and reduce her hearing by 50/60%. She had the sudden sensation she was in a swimming pool.’

On Tuesday, instead of heading into the newsroom I went to a hearing-aid clinic in Edinburgh to have implants fitted to block up my ears and reduce my hearing by 60 per cent.

As the nurse at House of Hearing filled my ears with an orange, putty-like solution I had the sudden sensation that I was in a swimming pool.

There was a strong echoing and all background noise disappeared. I couldn’t hear the hum of the radiator or voices in the next room.

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When the nurse asked if I was “feeling okay” I only knew this was her question from reading her lips. When I answered “yes” she laughed - apparently I had shouted.

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I left the clinic and walked to work along Princes Street, I had to step carefully, finding it harder than usual to avoid people.

An older woman approached me, I assume a tourist from the map in their hand and asked me something, smiling.

I frowned trying to focus on their lips, but she pointed as my fake hearing aids and said “I’m sorry, never mind” and approached someone else.

This happened throughout the day when I tried to buy a coffee or talk to colleagues. People asked me fewer questions and told me not to worry about answering them.

This lack of engagement with people showed me exactly why many people with hearing loss become isolated and lonely.

In the evening, while trying to order at a restaurant the waiter looked deeply embarrassed when I pointed at my implants. He blushed and asked my friend for the order instead. My inability to hear repeatedly embarrassed people and they tried to fit the situation by ignoring me.

Isolated and lonely

After dinner, I went to see the fireworks. It surprised me that the display was still very loud, I could hear the bangs perfectly.

What I couldn’t quite pick up was the conversation around me. I could see my friends standing next to me laughing but I couldn’t hear their voices or laughter. The firework display was beautiful but turned out to be a solitary experience.

Being deaf for a day showed me that losing your hearing doesn’t completely change your life it just makes it a little lonely. You feel isolated from events and environments and unable to engage with people.

According to research, one in six people over 50 in Lothian suffer from hearing loss and most of these people will wait on average 10 years before seeing a specialist.

This means that a huge percentage of people living in our city are living as I did today, more isolated that necessary.

House of hearing offers free checkups and the staff urges everyone to use this service and help make Edinburgh less lonely this winter.