To be honest, it was the pandemic that triggered me to get my ears tested. I’ve always had the ringing in my ear, tinnitus, or at least since my early teens, but it would come and go and sometimes I wouldn’t even notice it.
When everyone started wearing masks though, I was getting frustrated as I felt I wasn’t getting the full story in conversations and meetings. I just felt like I was saying ‘What? Pardon? Can you say that again please?’ all the time.
It got so bad that, last summer, I popped into my local optician for a free hearing test and I was referred to audiology for further tests. These tests confirmed I have moderate sensorineural hearing loss in both ears, which I’ve either had since birth or is early onset for an age-related condition. What it means in practice is I can struggle with hearing low volumes or high frequency tones and sometimes I miss words in a sentence which then means the sentence doesn’t make sense to me.
Lots of things suddenly made sense
My diagnosis didn’t come as a complete surprise. In a way, it was a bit of a relief as I was getting so frustrated and lots of things suddenly made sense. In work meetings and conversations for example, someone would be saying something to me and at times I didn’t get any of it, but everyone else did and they were carrying on the conversation without me. I’d be really tired from having to concentrate so much on hearing things on Zoom calls that work was starting to get difficult.
A positive journey
The support I’ve had from my colleagues and NatWest Group since my diagnosis has been amazing. I got hearing aids in October and my line manager was really good throughout. She arranged as assessment with HR who then arranged a review with the Royal National Institute for Deaf People (RNID) who did a report too. All this happened before Christmas, which felt really quick as I thought there would be a backlog because of the pandemic.
In January, I had a meeting with HR to go through the RNID report and their recommendations and, from that, I got a Roger Pen - a portable wireless microphone that is used in combination with hearing aids and can be conveniently used where additional support is needed over distance and in loud noise. It came within a couple of weeks and has been a massive help. Before that I was having to switch between speakers and headsets and if my phone rang, it was really awkward.