In episode 12 of the podcast, I chat with Lewis Vaughan Jones; a TV news presenter for BBC News and BBC World News who has gone through a sudden hearing loss which happened overnight and we talked about how he is adjusting to his new lifestyle.
Listen to the podcast or read the transcripts below:
- “Newsreader Lewis Vaughan Jones makes debut wearing hearing aid”
- Lewis Vaughan Jones on Twitter
- Lewis Vaughan Jones on Instagram
Announcer: This is The Hear Me Out! [CC] Podcast, a place to hear stories from the deaf and hard of hearing people, and from your host, Ahmed Khalifa.
Ahmed: Welcome to episode 12 of The Hear Me Out! [CC] podcast, where I’m going to be interviewing Lewis Vaughan Jones, who is a television news presenter for BBC News and BBC World News as well and he had to address to a sudden hearing loss, which happened pretty much overnight.
You might be thinking, “How can he be a television news presenter and have a hearing loss? It’s kind of a complicated job.”
“There’s quite a lot of multitasking involved on TV and behind the scenes.”
Lewis goes through it, and he also shares his story. It’s a great interview. It’s a great chat, and you will love it, so let’s get into it with interview with Lewis Vaughan Jones.
There’s quite a lot of multitasking involved on TV and behind the scenes.” Lewis goes through it, and he also shares his story. It’s a great interview. It’s a great chat, and you will love it, so let’s get into it with interview with Lewis Vaughan Jones.
Ahmed: Lewis, thank you for joining us. Thank you for joining the show
Lewis: Pleasure, thank you very much for having me on.
Ahmed: I’ve been really excited to do this because I feel like you’ve got a lot to share.
I would love to start off with your journey toward your healing loss and how did it happen in the build-up to it? How did it make you feel?
I would love to know from your perspective, your journey to suddenly losing your hearing.
Lewis: Yeah. Well, sudden is the word. It was a very quick journey. I arrived at the destination pretty quickly.
About a year ago now, just over a year ago, it was winter here in the UK, and I had a cold, just a normal cold. It wasn’t particularly severe. It went on for a couple of weeks.
My ears, I just thought, were clogged up and I couldn’t hear like you always have a cold. You don’t kind of think anything of it
Lewis: Eventually, I went to my GP who referred me on. What had happened is they think a virus had attacked the nerve inside the brain that obviously carries the sound into your brain it wiped it out and it was gone, and I couldn’t hear anything.
I went from a state of normal hearing for most of my life, and then I was mid-30s, and suddenly told that I would never hear again in my left ear.
Lewis: I was shocked. I was going to say it was devastating and all that. It actually wasn’t at the time immediately. It was just complete incomprehension.
I had no idea, in my naivety, I have no idea that you could walk down the street, and then the next day, lose your hearing completely in one of your ears, and that’s it. There’s nothing they can do and that … You’re done
When they told me in the hospital that this is what happened, I was kind of just bamboozled, flummoxed, just didn’t understand what was going on.
The doctor was just really blunt. He said, “Yeah, that hearing is never coming back. That tinnitus that you’ve got, that will be there forever. Try not to think about it, on your way.”
That was it. I walked out the hospital and I had to deal with all that. It was, yeah, really shocking.
Ahmed: Wow. I mean, did they say, is it a common thing to have from one day, you have normal hearing, and then you have a cold, and then the next day, you pretty much have a permanent damage to your never system in your ear? Did they say, is it normal for you?
Lewis: It’s certainly not normal, but it’s not unheard of, pun definitely intended.
It’s one of those things that it’s rare, but they knew exactly what it was. The sensorineural hearing loss is a thing, and people know about it, but mainly, GPs don’t know a great deal about it.
Obviously, the wider public don’t know much about it. I have never heard of it. I was pretty unlucky.
The reason I was doubly unlucky is I’ve got mixed hearing loss, so as well as the nerve ending stopping working, my eardrum has gone as well, and that’s what the doctors were particularly interested in, interested from their point of view.
They said, “Lewis, you’re a very special case here, and the last thing you want to be in this place is a special case.”
What happened, I have had damaged eardrums in both ears. When I was a kid, I had grommets. Lots of people listening, I think, will relate to that kind of thing, grommets and stuff, and very scared, damaged eardrums.
I actually did have an operation to repair the eardrum in my left ear a few years ago. The doctors couldn’t quite explain why, so there’s a huge sudden drop-off in my conductive hearing, basically, the eardrum side of it, and the nerve at the same time.
They just put it down to pure coincidence. The two things have nothing to do with each other, and it was just kind of extraordinary bad timing that both seem to drop off at the same time.
That was as best as they could get for an explanation.
I was just surprised that we didn’t know more. Having had grommets when I was a kid and growing up with it, and then didn’t have fine hearing my own life. I’ve kind of been around ENT (Ear, Nose, Throat hospital department), but I’ve done hearing tests and things like that.
I kind of just assumed we were a bit further along in the science of hearing and hearing loss. I assumed there will be more they could do. I kind of still feel like, “Oh, they will get it back. They will discover something and make me hear again in my left ear.”
By complete naivety and stupidity, I didn’t realise that there’s actually, not only a limit to what they can do, there’s a big limit to their understanding of what even causes it. A virus for the cold is their best guess, they said.
Lewis: I am, so I was kind of shocked by all that.
Ahmed: I’m sure. I’m sure. And I’m guessing that you don’t really have anyone in your family, or a friend, your circle of peer who have gone through the same thing or who’s hard-of-hearing or deaf. I’m guessing you are the only one that you know of who’s going through this.
Lewis: You’re absolutely right. In my family, in my friendship groups, in the only one who wears the hearing aids, and I’m the only one who has any kind of significant issues with it and certainly with sudden sensorineural hearing loss. I’m the only one.
I mean, the lovely thing about this happening is through work, I’ve met now people, hearing-aid users, deaf/hard of hearing people who have just been absolutely brilliant, as you can imagine, welcomed me into the fold and had just been just beyond kind.
Our workplace has been really kind to me, the BBC and ITN. I’m a freelance newsreader, so I work at both, but predominantly at the BBC. They were fantastic.
My first fear when I lost my hearing, as you can understand, was I’m not going to be able to work again.
I wear an earpiece in my ear when I’m reading the news, and I need my other ear, my left ear to hear guests, to hear guests in the studio, to hear the correspondence and the reports as I’m interviewing.
I suddenly thought, “Well, I can’t do this. I’ve always used both my ears, and I need them both.” I just couldn’t see how it was going to work.
BBC have made it work and a workaround, so I’ve got this lovely bizarre situation now, when reporters or guests come and sit next to me in the studio, I have to explain to them that I can’t hear them in real life.
But as soon as they put the microphone on, the sounds from the microphone is relayed into the gallery, and then it pumps through into my earpiece in my good ear.
They didn’t use the bit where I do an impression of my tinnitus but here’s a summary of what’s been happening… https://t.co/hr35Y2MAdS— Lewis Vaughan Jones (@LVaughanJones) July 21, 2018
We have this brilliant few moments before we’re live where I say, “I can’t hear a bloody word you’re saying. I’m sure you’re interesting and wonderful and lovely, I think we’ll find out when we’re live on air,” and that’s it.
That’s the way it’s kind of … It worked and is working, I’m delighted to say, and that was just such a huge emotional relief knowing that I could carry on working because that was the big scary thing right at the beginning.
I thought, “I can’t see how this is going to work.”
Now, I mean I’m hampered a little bit when things do go down, so occasionally, the earpiece in my right ear, my good ear will cut out and stop working, and then I’m completely on my own then. I can’t hear anything.
I’m there with a camera pointed at me with what is tens of millions of people watching, and I can’t hear anyone who is trying to tell me to do anything or say anything. Those little moments are scary, but they’re few and far between, thankfully.
Ahmed: Of course, I can understand because, I mean, you have grown up completely in the hearing world, and then it just happened overnight. I can understand the emotion, physically, mentally, you’re just all over the place.
For someone like me, I’ve been with it all my life, so I don’t know any better. I guess, with you, I can totally appreciate that even, for example, in your social life, you’re saying that everyone around you is a hearing person, so your social life has also changed instantly, your dinner party, the bar, the restaurant.
How did you handle that? What did you do to get over the situation?
Lewis: Yeah, I still get a bit sad about that. I think I’ve been pretty positive since it’s all happened and embraced it. I lived through this for about a year, just over a year.
Overall, I’ve been very happy to talk about it, be open about it, and be in that positive mindset. I think I’m pretty lucky I’ve been managing to maintain that, but I have dips where I just get a bit frustrated and get a bit negative and a bit sad.
They are around those exact moment. I feel it sounds silly because it sounds trivial, and that’s what I can’t quite get across.
I’ve never been able to find the words to explain to people that “Oh, what do you mean? Oh, you just can’t quite hear people when you’re having dinner or you don’t go to the pub so often because it’s a bit loud and you can’t hear people. Oh, boo, boohoo hoo.”
In the big scheme of things, of course, yes, there are far worst things, and it’s not a big deal, but it’s actually, so many of your important life moments, those social moments, those just messing around with your mates, your family, they all take place in those kind of … If you’re at a barbecue in the summer or dinner or in a park, and I’m missing out on those.
It does get me down a little bit, and especially as I’m Welsh, so I love rugby and the 6 Nations every year, it’s a bit kind of family ritual.
I go back. My mom and stepdad are back in Whales or my mates are back in Whales, we would always go back and watch it. It’s our kind of Christmas and Easter type thing. It’s a wonderful ritual.
We like watching in big, loud pubs, obviously, when you’re with your mates. I can only really hear the one person who’s directly on my right-hand side on my good ear. I can’t hear anyone else.
You just miss out on those little jokes and little banter and people saying stuff.
You will have put up with this a lot longer than I have, but you feel like there’s only so many times you can ask people to repeat things.
I feel quite lucky I’m relatively confident, and find that I don’t mind asking people to repeat things and things. Even I think, “Well, actually, it’s just a bit boring and a bit slow to stop and start.”
Most of the time, it’s okay. Most of the time, it’s fine. I just think, sometimes, when I get home from an evening out or something like that, I’m just a bit frustrated and a bit down. The experience isn’t what it used to be. Yeah, and that I don’t have an answer for it.
The answers and the tools are making sure people are in my eye line so I can see their lips moving, not being afraid to ask them to repeat and things like that. I know all that, but it’s still not the same.
Ahmed: It’s not the same.
Lewis: It’s difficult to describe, isn’t it? Do you know what I mean about how it sounds a bit trivial, but actually, it’s quite fundamental to being a human being
Ahmed: It is. It’s kind of a basic human biological thing that you have. You want to connect with people. You want to be part of a group of people or tribe.
We are social people. We are social, and to suddenly be left out of that, whether it’s completely or a little bit left out, it’s hard. It’s very hard
I totally get that.
Lewis: On the other side, when I’m feeling antisocial, it’s a very good excuse. I can pretend not to hear and have no problem. There are upsides to all these.
Ahmed: I’ve actually used that excuse a few times I think. If I have an event, and I’m thinking, “You know what? That’s not going to work for me,” I’ll put out the deaf card or something.
Lewis: Perfect. Yeah. Perfect. Got to use it. Got to use it
Ahmed: I’ve kind of done the journey, the social situation and the job and stuff like that. I am really interested about in your job situation because, as you said, you’re working in BBC and on TV and you have, on one side, you have people talking to you face-to-face, and then on the other side, you have the production team talking to you.
For me, it sounds like it’s so mentally challenging because you know to yourself, when you have to listen extra hard, you get this thing called the concentration fatigue and you get really tired because you are concentrating so hard.
How do you that? It’s always something that I’m trying to get my head around when I watch you on TV. How do you manage to focus to a conversation and you still pull it off in style I suppose?
Lewis: Oh, that was very kind. I definitely didn’t pay you to say that, but I’ll pay you later.
Yeah, it’s funny. I think I’ve been lucky because working on TV for 15 years or so, you get used to talking about one thing whilst listening to someone else to say something in your ear at the same time. It’s actually something that interview as weirdly trained for with losing my hearing and having to do all that in one year.
It’s definitely harder what I do now, having to process everything through just one ear whilst talking about, usually, a completely different subject at the same time.It’s actually because of my job that I’ve been able to adapt fairly quickly. Even my wife is a newsreader as well, and she has the same rooting.
I want to avoid being technical and boring, but anyway, she kind of does it the same way. Not because she has any problems with hearing, but just because that’s the way the studio is set up over in CNN. She’s used to it. I’m used to it.
It was actually when it happened, it did take a bit of adjustment, and it did take a bit of getting used to, but I’m not going to claim that I’m some magical, super talented newsreader that can do it
I’m just been doing it a long time, and so when I had to adjust not being able to hear people with two ears and only with one, it was more straightforward than I realised and certainly that I could’ve hoped because just the thought of not being able to do my job was … Yeah, I got pretty low for a few weeks when I thought that was going to be the case
Ahmed: Definitely. No, definitely. If you’re passionate about something, you don’t want to lose that. I get that. No, definitely. Then, I mean, I guess every single person has their own challenges in their workplace.
You’ve mentioned all these challenges that you said about you might not be able to hear the person directly in front of you until the microphone is mixed up and things like that.
Then, sometimes, we depend on all the people to, I guess, tweak their style a little bit, the employers, they tweak their method a little bit.
So were there something specific in terms of your employers, your boss, the BBC, was there something in particular they did to accommodate you just to make your job a little bit easier?
Lewis: Yeah, there’s a couple of things on that. They’ve been absolutely brilliant, but a couple of things they can’t do much about, but I’ve had to make a little adjustment, or I’d ask my colleagues to make a little adjustment.
Again, this sounds really small, but it’s huge and significant. In our newsroom, we all sit with two huge screens in front of us, which I’m sure is like lots of offices around the world, or maybe you just have one, but we’ve got two big screens.
I can’t see anyone’s mouths around me, apart from the two people kind of directly next to me.
In a newsroom, you will constantly have people talking to each other, just shouting one or two words, “Oh, did you see that story,” or “I’m cutting those pictures,” or “I’ve got that interview. Oh, look at that.”
That’s all going on around me, and I can’t follow it. That’s a big problem because lots of little things are communicated like that in and around newsrooms, especially when there’s breaking news or things happening.
I made the decision to actually sit a bit further away, so the first thing I did was sit on a different desk when this first happened. The reason I did it, it sounds counterintuitive, kind of taking yourself further away from the action if you can’t hear.
But what that meant was that if anyone needed to tell me anything, they knew that I wouldn’t be hearing because I wasn’t sitting next to them. They’d have to come over and physically tell me, “Oh, this story going in. We’re not doing that story now.”
That was like a safety net, which worked, I think, at the beginning.
Likewise, I would go over to the editor, whoever is in charge that day and say, “Is there anything that I don’t know,” or “Is there anything I don’t know that I don’t know,” like that Donald Rumsfeld quote, unknown unknowns.
You feel a bit ridiculous saying it, but that’s really important, and I try and do that. If there’s a sense, I think there’s conversations had that I haven’t heard, I would go over and ask, “Oh, is there anything I need to know?
Long-term, I can’t just go off and sit on my own. That isn’t sustainable. Now, I do sit in my normal desk with everyone else. There are times when people will shout and talk. I just do a lot of standing up and sitting down like a meerkat.
I’d pop my head over the desk as soon as anyone says anything anywhere, but I think one might need to know this. I stand up directly and ask them to repeat it.
Pretty much, everyone knows … It’s a relatively small-ish team, apart from the new members that come through all the time, and the other guys know.
Sometimes, they’ll come over and start speaking to me on my left-hand side. I’ll have to just look at them and smile, and then they laugh and realise, “Oh, yeah, Lewis hasn’t heard a word I’ve said.”
We swap sides, and I may come around the other side, and I can hear them. It’s kind of a very, very low-tech solution.
There are technology bits available. That means I could put a microphone in the middle of desk and that some people use for meetings stuff, which I know are brilliant.
That’s not quite applicable for me, so I’ve gone for the low-tech solutions, which is lots of standing up and sitting down and telling people as well. I’ve had two people talking to me at the same time.
For example, a couple of weeks ago … Totally natural, as you would, it was a three-way conversation, and I just have to say, “Oh, I’m sorry, I can’t follow if both of you are talking.”
Everyone is absolutely great and fine. Yeah, I’m afraid I can’t offer any massive insights other than my very low-tech solutions, which so far, have been working pretty well.
Ahmed: Well, if the meerkat approach, if it’s working for you…
Lewis: Yes, the meerkat approach, yeah.
Ahmed: …I can totally get that because people are behind the screen, and then if you’re in the other side, you can’t see them. I can relate to that.
I used to work in an agency in the marketing department, and yeah, I actually did the meerkat approach, or, I don’t know what you call it when you just get the chair and slide across, so you can see the-
Lewis: The slide, yes. Nice, the slide. Yeah. Okay. I can picture you doing a nice slide across.
Ahmed: Exactly, it’s smooth as well. It’s low-tech as you say, but it’s a smooth way of doing it.
Lewis: I’ll try all that. I’ll try to make it-
Ahmed: That’s the thing, as you said, even for me, I can understand that not all technology works for everyone. Certainly, for me, there are certain things, it’s just not going to work for me, but it’s the simple thing, isn’t it. It’s the face to face.
They can see your lip. There’s good lighting. There’s not too many noise in the background. It’s simple, simple thing. It doesn’t cost anything.
Lewis: No, exactly.
Ahmed: I totally get that, but then I have noticed as well because there are online videos and articles, that’s how I first got to know your background and your hearing journey or hearing loss journey.
It made me realise as well that you’re quite vocal about it now. I’m someone who had been very quiet about it.
Even though I’ve been living with it for 30-plus years, it was only really for me the past couple of years where I have really talked it.
Maybe here and there I’ve mentioned it, but I’ve had my reasons whether it’s because I wanted to fit in or I wanted to ignore it or I wanted to … As you say, it’s a trivial thing. I just want to get on with it.
Ahmed: Recently, I’ve become more vocal about it. I have my own reason because I want to share that message, but why are you vocal about it? Why are you sharing your stories, your journey, your difficulties?
I’m curious to know from your perspective why are you vocal about it.
Lewis: Yeah. Well, it’s interesting. It’s a pretty … It’s not a dark reason, a pretty heavyweight reason, forgive me for going into it, but basically, I am, by nature, I think, very much like you, private.
I don’t talk about things generally, certainly not about my personal life and private life, which is slightly weird for someone who is on TV for a living, but I think that’s probably more common than you think.
It’s not my instinct to go at all, go out and talk about things openly, but a couple of years ago, my wife and I are going through IVF. We’ve been going through IVF fertility treatment for years. That’s very private and secret and all that kind of stuff.
A few years ago, my wife decided that she was just going to talk about it, get it off her chest. That was transformational. I would not have done it without her.
She led the way. She pioneered, and it felt so much better and easier to deal with, with your close friends, with your work colleagues, with strangers, when it’s all out on the open and everyone knows about it, and there’s no secrets.
That changed my approach to all these things. I’m going to thank my wife, Hannah for this.
When the hearing stuff happened with me a year or so ago, it wasn’t even an option. I was like, “Absolutely, just for purely selfish reasons, I’m going to just be open and talk about it because I know that’s easier for me to deal with it in that way.”
On top of that, it struck me as absolutely extraordinary that it is and certainly was and still is this taboo about people wearing hearing aids, young people wearing hearing aids.
It struck me as utterly bonkers. It’s there. I absolutely know it’s there because I was one of those people before if you hear people or see people with hearing aids, you do kind of think, “Oh, are they a bit slow that you need to …” It’s a bit unsure.
You don’t know what to do, all that kind of stuff. It’s a totally normal human reaction. I was like, “You don’t do that when you see people wearing glasses. There’s no need why there should be any more taboo about wearing your hearing aid than wearing glasses.“
I wish hearing aids worked as well as glasses, that would be the only thing I would like to see change.
When that realisation hit me, I was like, “Well, this is absolutely bonkers.” There’s absolutely no need for it to be like this.
Especially with younger people who they want to look cool. They want to fit in. They don’t want to be wearing a hearing aid and blah, blah, blah, so I kind of think that I thought I have a slight opportunity on TV, and there can’t be any harm in just seeing more hearing aids on TV being normalised.
I’m very rarely on TV talking about my hearing aid. I’m talking about whatever is going on in the news.
I thought, “Well, actually that’s probably quite a useful thing for kids and for people to see being a normal part of young person’s life,” if I can still call myself young. I don’t think I can anymore, can I? 30’s, so that was going on.
Yeah, kind of couple of reasons really, that kind of selfish reason that it was easier for me to cope with and that kind of more public-facing reasons, I got to get rid of this taboo. It’s bonkers that it’s there in the first place.
Ahmed: I agree. I agree. I think even though I’ve blunt out the hardware, I’m thinking, “What a silly thing to think about,” in terms of I didn’t want to wear it because of X, Y, and Z or whatever.
Sometimes, I wish I have started earlier, but at the end of the day, it’s never too late to kind of just be more open about it and embrace it and talk about it.
This is why I wanted to talk to you, and I wanted to talk to other people about it. It gets to, as you say, normalise it, just be able to talk about it with ease and be comfortable with it, and make people aware that, you know what, apart for a few minor adjustment, not that big a deal.
Just see you face-to-face and bright light and whatever and all this basic stuff, apart from that, we’re good as gold.
Of course, there are other people who have a more profound hearing difficulty, and they use sign language and stuff like that. That’s a different situation altogether. I totally get that.
I think in terms of me and you, we’re kind of in a very tricky middle spot, isn’t it? The hearing world, and then the more profound deafness.
We are kind of in that middle bit, which is a bit awkward. It’s very awkward at times, but as you say, why not talk about it? The idea to talk to you about it, it’s great, I agree with you.
Lewis: Yeah, it’s been pretty liberating. It’s interesting. Something just happened actually in just the last couple of weeks for me. This is still very new, but my right eardrum, which is my good ear, is collapsing. It’s a bit traumatic, but it’s retracting at the top.
It would normally be a relatively straightforward procedure to go in and grasp some cartilage on there and repair the eardrum, but no one will do it. No surgeon will do it because my whole hearing, any hearing, that depends on that right ear. They won’t go in and do it, but it’s only going to get worse.
That’s a strange position to be in, that a doctor telling me, “Yeah, we’re just going to monitor you as your hearing in your right ear goes down and down and down as this retraction get bigger and bigger and bigger in your eardrum. We could go in and do it, but no one will because if anything goes wrong, you’ve lost both your hearing in both ears, and no one will take that on.”
Lewis: That, again, philosophically is a … It’s not philosophically. I mean just emotionally, it’s just a difficult thing to deal with, really, and because this is really … Just literally in the last couple of weeks, I’m still processing that.
It’s interesting. I don’t know where I’ll be, so that’s the interesting part. I had a bit of certainty when I got my hearing aid for the first time. It feels not right. I know I’m going to be … I’ve kind of just adjusted to everything.
Now, the next couple of years, I have to adjust to a different kind of a reality, whether that is a cochlear implant, which is what it might be, which I don’t know much about cochlear implants, but from what I’ve read and seen people seem to rave about them, which is great.
Yeah, it’s kind of just that disconcerting, yeah, don’t quite know where I’ll be. I started learning sign language in a pathetic online kind of way and totally crashed and burned and failed to do that.
I’m starting next week now a proper course, physically getting out my house and going down and actually doing a proper course.
I may be in a position in a couple years time where I will really need it rather than nice to have. Yeah, these little … It is interesting for me that it’s still developing for me, and I’m still getting used to. My hearing aid is just not effective enough. It’s useful. It boosts the sound.
I will know more quickly if a truck is heading towards me and going to kill me. That’s useful, but I have so little hearing in my left ear that it doesn’t boost sound or speech or anything nearly as well as it should.
My current doctor that I’m seeing now, he was saying, “I’m amazed that you got any use out of the hearing aid because you got so little hearing in there. That’s why we need to look at the cochlear implants and all the other options over the next however long.”
That’s still with the tinnitus as well, of course. I mean I’ve got tinnitus in just the left ear. I’ve had it for a year or so now.
God, the first few nights of having that, I just thought, “I’m just not going to be able to carry on with this. I can’t live with my own brain attacking me with this high-pitched noise every day for the rest of my life. I just won’t be able to live with that.”
Obviously, you do make adjustments, and you do. I can go for periods now without noticing it, but then as soon as I notice it, it’s there.
Ever since I talked about it like I’m talking about it now, it’s absolutely raging away at my left half of my brain.
Every night, it’s there. Every single night when I put my head on the pillow. I think the cochlear implants can help with that, but that’s all up in the air.
This is all very, very new. I’m so sorry. I feel like I’m unloading on you. I’m emotionally dumping on you, Ahmed, for no reason at all, so I’ll shut up. I’ll shut up.
Ahmed: It’s not a problem. It’s not a problem.
The reason I’m just kind of nodding along is because I feel like it’s a very similar journey that I’m on because I understand the emotions that you’re feeling because I’ve had that news last year or something, where my hearing had dipped, and the audiologist looked at the graph and it says, well, yeah, it has dipped.
Even though it was expected, I remembered many year ago when I was a teenager, it said that it might happen in my 30s, as soon as it happened, it’s a weird feeling. It’s a weird feeling.
I can’t describe it. I did get a bit emotional. Even listening to you, and even I’m talking about it, I feel like I’m getting choked up a bit.
It just felt really weird and thinking like, what does that mean now, and what does that mean in the future? I think you’d probably agree with me, actually, I think talking about it a bit more and being a bit more open about it have made it a bit more liberating. I’m the same with you in terms of, right now, I am actually also learning BSL.
Ahmed: It’s something that … You know what? I love languages anyway, but the more I thought about it, the more I realised it’s actually even harder for me to learn language because you can appreciate listening foreign language, and you’re trying to not only listen hard but then you’re trying to translate, you are mentally just exhausted more than normal.
I love languages anyway, and I thought, “You know what? If I learn BSL, that’s a good thing for me anyway,” but also, I’m learning to kind of future-proof myself.
Lewis: Yes, exactly. Yeah
Ahmed: I just don’t know what’s going to happen. Is it going to go down? Maybe. Is it not? Also, maybe, but I think you just have to take that future in your hand and control it in a way so that you know what you’re going to do if it does happen, and if it doesn’t, at least you just continue as normal.
I can totally understand what you’re saying, and even right now, at the time of recording, in a couple of hours time, I’m going to head out, and for the first time, I’m going to be in a … It’s a BSL group of people, but it’s also, it’s a quiz night as well.
Lewis: Oh, brilliant.
Ahmed: I’ve never done that before, but I thought, “You know what? Let me just go out there and just try it and learn from other people, be around deaf people who are obviously fluent in sign language, and just to be involved with that, and just to learn, and just to embrace it, all that kind of stuff.
That’s why, me hearing your story, it just felt like, not talking to a mirror, but in a way, just like kind of I know exactly what you’re going through.
I appreciate that. I think it’s a great way that you explained it. I just found myself nodding along, so yeah.
Lewis: Well, yeah, yeah, well, we’ll need to touch base again once I’ve gone through this course and see how far I’ve come along. You can test me on my BSL.
Ahmed: I would love to even see that. I don’t know. I’ll just love to see you even incorporating that in your life because, again, this is a new experience for you.
It’s only happened the last few years, but I really do admire the way that you are kind of tackling the situation heads on.
Even though, yes, you have these challenges, but I really do admire how you conduct yourself on TV and the way you do your job and all these things. It’s also showing to people that, who cares? You can still do your job. You can still get around it. If you just do a minor tweak, you can still keep going.
Lewis: Yeah, that’s absolutely right. Yeah.
Ahmed: That’s why I want to share the message with everyone.
Lewis: Yeah. No, absolutely right. I may be terrible at my job, but it’s nothing to not hearing.
Ahmed: No, no, no, I’m not going to blame the hearing, or I’m not going to blame anything. I don’t even agree with you in that. I’m don’t agree with you in that.
There’s a list of question that I want to kind of fire at you just to get your perspective. I’d like to ask this to everyone else.
One question that I want to start off with, what’s the worst thing people have said to you about your hearing loss?
Lewis: Oh, that’s a good question.
I must be very lucky and surrounded by very nice people. I think the worst thing is, and it’s not one occasion, it’s quite often, is just that look people give you when they’ve said something and they’re expecting a reply or they think you’re being a bit rude, or they think you’re ignoring them or something because they haven’t clocked or they haven’t realised, or they haven’t seen my hearing aids or whatever
I get it quite a lot. I’ve got black hair and my hearing aid is black. Sometimes, it’s quite hidden and you might not notice it.
I’d have it in shops or people want to meet and move forward in a queue or with an IT guy who was sorting stuff out and he said something.
Then he turned around and just looked at me, that look that you get when you go, “Oh, I must’ve missed something here.”
That look is a universal look of disgust, irritation, disappointment you’ve spoken to and you haven’t replied to them.
Nine times out of ten, it’s followed very quickly with a look of utter remorse when you point to your hearing aid and they go, “Oh, my God, Oh, my God.” They couldn’t be more apologetic. That’s the look rather than the words, I think.
Ahmed: I can kind of relate to that, yeah. I’ve seen that before.
What do you think is … I have an idea what’s the answer to this, what is the worst thing about being deaf/hard of hearing?
Lewis: Hard of hearing, for me, it’s missing out on those close friends, family, little jokes moments, and yeah, not only missing out on them but that feeling that you’re kind of slightly getting in the way of them or being a bit slow or interfering with anyone else’s fun.
Yeah, there is not a great deal I can do about it, but yeah, those moments are just a bit sad.
Ahmed: Definitely, I can understand.
Then let’s switch it around and what’s the best thing about being deaf or hard of hearing?
Lewis: This going to sound so cheesy. I hate myself already, but it’s genuinely the people I’ve met, the people I’ve met at work, who I wouldn’t have particularly … They work in different departments, and I wouldn’t have particularly come across them. They’ve been fantastic.
The charity events and stuff that I’ve been to where my first experiences of going and meeting groups of deaf, hard of hearing people and talking about the work they do and how they’re helping people, and whether it’s medical research or whether it’s putting up captions at theatre performances or the latest bit of technology.
This whole exciting world has been completely opened up to me in a way that, yeah, I didn’t obviously know it existed before. I hate myself. It’s a dreadful cheesy answer, but it is all the lovely people.
Just like chatting to you now, it’s a great example. I just wouldn’t have been doing this two years ago. It’s been eye-opening. It’s been fascinating. Yeah, I feel very lucky.
Ahmed: Yeah, not cheesy at all. I’ll accept it. I’ll accept it, all of that, it’s really cool.
Then the next question then is what advice do you have for hearing people when they are around deaf people?
Lewis: Yeah, that’s a good question. Yeah, I mean, the basics, obviously. If you’re talking, make sure your mouth is visible. I would say, and this is slightly controversial, but I do want more people to project from the diaphragm a bit more.
I’ve noticed a lot of people, and I’m sure I was like it before, but people tend to talk a bit from up here, and they don’t project their voice very loudly.
It might be a shyness thing or just the way they’re brought up thing.
Well, it’s actually, it’s really helpful for me if people talk from down here and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Yeah, the basics of talking nice and loud and clear and talking so I can see your lips.
Those are the obvious basic things. That’s pretty neat. That really helps the people like me and you.
Obviously, it doesn’t help for people had more profound hearing loss. Those two things outside the practical things, and beyond that is just being slightly more patient than you would normally be
It’s just a little bit of if you say something and I don’t hear, then I not being rude, I’m not being horrible. I just haven’t heard you, a bit of patience with that.
On the flip side of that, so there is a chance I’m being rude. There is a chance I just don’t like you, and there’s a chance I’m ignoring you. That’s the chance you’ve got to take. Yeah, that’s what I would say I think.
Ahmed: It’s interesting what you said, the diaphragm bit, it makes sense. It makes sense. I never thought about that.
It’s just the way you project your voice to the rest of the world, to the person in front of you. I like that. That’s a good point actually. That’s a good point.
Lewis: I think people should do it for their own sense of self. It’s really important. You’ve got one spin on the planet, kind of get out there and use your voice and make sure you’re heard, don’t apologise for yourself, all that kind of thing.
I’ve noticed it so much. When your left ear goes and I haven’t got a brilliant hearing in my right ear, suddenly now, I’m really aware of it.
My wife, because she’s a news anchor, she’s got a big booming voice. I’ve got quite a big booming voice.
I’ve always kind of taken it for granted, but I’ve got friends who really, yeah, just kind of talk to the floor, don’t properly move their lips and all that kind of stuff. It comes from a whole variety of reasons.
Yeah, I would encourage everyone to just do a breathing course, and acting class or something, and just get that voice out there because, yes, selfishly it means I can hear you a bit more.
Psychologically, for your own good and your own sense of self, I think it’s hugely important that people kind of, yeah, talk from the diaphragm and project.
Ahmed: Wow. That’s such a good advice. I love that. I’m going to try to use that. That’s brilliant. That’s really cool.
I guess the final two questions then, in relation to your job, and I want other people to learn from your example, what advice do you have for anyone who has some kind of hearing loss, profound or not so profound, what advice do you have for them if they also want to be a newscaster or newsreader or anything kind of related to that job? What advice do you have for them?
Lewis: Oh, very simple.
Well, first of all, I’m the last person in the world who should be giving advice to anyone on anything. It’s my first premise. I don’t like giving advice.
In one specific, I would say absolutely get in touch with someone who is going through something similar or has the same issues that you might have because you will be amazed.
I’ve had a couple of people message me, two journalists. I went for coffee with one. It was a revelation.
Just coming forward and having the confidence to get in touch, ping an email or a direct message on Twitter out of the blue and saying, “I would like to do this,” would you be able to help? Would you be able to meet up? Would you be able to do X, Y, and Z?”
The reason why it’s such a brilliant advice that I’m stealing and passing out as my own advice is that people love to feel important and like they can help.
If you can message someone who in your field of work is doing well and meet up and get them as an ally and build them up straight away as a key contact. That is absolutely the best thing you could do.
Especially in journalism, I’m a journalist and a part of the big part of the job is going up to strangers and asking them to give you your time. That’s a key core skill.
Encouraging anyone who wants to get into journalism to do that and specifically to do that with someone who is facing the same issues as you are, whatever those issues are. It can be absolutely anything.
It’s a simple basic first step and will pay dividends. I will go on throughout and my career, and these people who got in touch with me wanting to be a journalist, so all in the industry of wanting to move over.
I will always have their back in a very small way for the rest of my career, and that can’t hurt anyone. That’s what I would say, get in touch. Get in touch.
Ahmed: That’s brilliant. It’s funny because my last question is about what advice do you have for anyone who is living with some kind of deafness in making the most out of their lives because, as you say, we’ve been through a situation where you feel a bit down, or you feel isolated and alone.
It’s so easy to get trapped into that without really thinking, “You know what? There are things that I can do around me.” That was going to be my final question.
Obviously, you can answer and elaborate more on that, but I feel like you’ve touched that already in terms of get involved with other people who are going through the same thing as you.
Lewis: Yeah, that’s absolutely right. I think it’s so much easier now. It’s so much easier to build a network and to have confidence in what you’re doing and to have confidence in what you’re doing and confidence in the people around you in your network. I’ve got your back and doing the right thing.
It’s so much easier than it was even five, 10 years ago. Yeah, I would get out there, get out there and do it.
As I say, I say, I am the last person who should be giving anyone advice. Feel free to ignore everything I said. That’s the final piece of advice I would give.
Ahmed: I’m looking to wind it up like that. I like that. No, I think a lot of what said is amazing, even for me, I’ve learned a lot.
I feel a bit better about handling the situation and, again, just thinking about long-term or short-term, what to do today, what to do in X number of years, and yeah, it’s about taking control as well. I appreciate that.
Just, again, I just want to thank you for sharing your stories and your advice even though you don’t think they’re good advice, I appreciate it anyway.
Yeah, it’s just been brilliant. Yeah, just thank you for your time, and I’d love for you to round it up with if anyone wants to get in touch with you or connect with you or anything like that, where is the best place for them to do that?
Lewis: Yeah, definitely. My Twitter is @LVaughanJones.
My Instagram is the same. I would say absolutely get in touch.
If there’s anything that I’ve said that you like, dislike, want to know more on, going through the same things or friends and family, it’s so much easier to chat one-on-one.
Ping me a message at @LVaughanJones. I’ll definitely reply
Ahmed: Awesome. There you got. You have that at your disposal.
Lewis, again, I appreciate it. Thank you very much for that, thank you.
Lewis: Great. Thanks so much, Ahmed. Great to talk to you.
Ahmed: Thank you, Lewis, for appearing on the podcast. I really appreciate it, and I really enjoyed chatting with you.
I hope you listeners enjoyed it as well. If you have, I would love it if you could leave a review on iTune to let me know what you think as well. I would really, really appreciate it.
In the meantime, I will speak to you soon.
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