Disability Voices

Atkinson, Jane. Unheard Voices: interviews with deafened people

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  • Subjects

    Hearing Loss

  • Recording date


  • Recording locations

    Holiday Inn, Washington, Tyne and Wear

  • Interviewees

    Atkinson, Jane, 1949- (speaker, female)

  • Interviewers

    Keightley, Vivienne, 1959- (speaker, female)

  • Transcribers

    Jacobie, Julia (Speech-To-Text Reporter - Palantypist, female)

  • Abstract

    Part 1: Jane Atkinson [JA] born 1949, now co-ordinator for Durham Deafened Support (DDS). Family background details. Effect of coal mining on father’s health. Mother – housewife and voluntary worker. Early childhood memories in coal mining community – relative freedom. School ok [05:32] Description of location of family home –Horden village Easington district, county Durham. Near blackened beach. JA still in Horden. Details of marriage and 3 children. Memories of grandparents as old people who needed care. Death of grandparents. [11:30] Onset of hearing loss. JA deafened since 1997. Health notes. Heart attacks and hearing loss happened at same time. Former employment. Frustrations of major communication difficulties when in hospital after heart attacks. Audiology visit – dramatic hearing loss identified. Consultant visit – doctor communicating only with JA’s husband. JA’s feelings about that. Advice at 2nd audiology appointment. [16:48] Backtrack to earlier identification of mild hearing loss age 29. Hearing aid helped. Hearing then stable until 1997 episode. JA’s negative perception of consultant in 1997. [20:12] Description of 2nd audiology appointment – helpful, practical. Exact cause of severe sensorineural hearing loss never identified. Possibly circulatory. [22:14] Life changing effect of severe hearing loss on JA’s personality / relationships with children and grandchildren /wider family and friends. Difficulty in communicating with husband. Loss of closeness with oldest daughter. Late realisation of change in use of first name (Jean / Jane). Prior to being deafened, JA was outgoing. Husband always introverted. JA’s role as carer for husband and effect of still trying to sustain that role. Feeling of upset when husband said JA’s hearing loss hadn’t bothered him much. [29:41] 9 month gap before Social Work tried to help – but no equipment appropriate. JA health not up to possible cochlear implant. Social life at an end. [31:58] JA now has cochlear implant. Explanation of lead up to operation. Uncertainly whether JA really wanted to have operation. Difficulty in family accepting that implant would not give back perfect hearing. Perception of sound at point of implant being switched on. Initial difficulties. Improvement over following months. ‘Magic magnet’. [37:19] Sound perception not perfect now but implant invaluable – huge difference in quality of life. Now, 7 years on, need for further operation soon to update / improve device. Concerns re effect of operation on health but worth risk for further improvement. [40:06] At point of being deafened, JA had to give up voluntary work. Reflection on key experiences since hearing loss: implant and meeting Heather Jackson. Personal growth – setting up organisation in Durham / millennium award for JA. [43:05] Experience of LINK residential rehabilitation week: palantype, lipreading, tinnitus – Heather Jackson inspirational talk: working towards acceptance of hearing loss and awareness of what can help improve life. ‘Life after deaf’. Husband realised difficulties JA now lived with – difference between ‘hard of hearing ‘ and ‘deafened’ [48:14] Meeting other deafened people helped husband realise JA was coping better than some. Learned communication tactics to help husband/wife communication. Positive effect on relationship. Based on experience with own husband, JA better understands partner’s perception of deafened partner. This helps in her work with deafened people in Durham. [50:07] JA’s father’s difficulty with concept of ‘deafened’ and attitude to JA’s hearing loss. [51:02] Identification that much more was needed to help people in same position as JS, in her local area. From small beginnings, JS built up county wide organisation ‘DDS’. The drive for funding, setting up many support groups, accommodation moves, details of the work of the organisation, home visits, family counselling and practical support. JA’s further training. Close links with NHS services. ‘Dealing with Deafness’ courses. Links with schools, deaf awareness training. Advice on employment rights etc. [59:10] Constant drive to improve provision – accompanying frustrations at slow progress despite major initiatives and many successes. Explanation of ‘Palantype’ and its advantages. Details of JA’s Heather Jackson award for services to deafened people. [01:03:38] Great improvement in JA’a whole family coming to terms and coping with her deafness. JA no longer held back by her deafness. But other people’s attitudes to deafness still a barrier. Change in JA’s own attitude to herself. No longer apologetic. Deafness definitely a disability. [01:08:05] JA’s experience of discrimination – ongoing fight for inclusion in meetings. Often ignorance is cause of difficulty rather than discrimination. Example given. Anecdote of disastrous visit to new doctor. [01:14:08] Improvements in NHS and Social Work re deafened provision over past 10 years, slow but sure. Oral History project well worth doing. Anecdote of huge problem getting successful angioplasty because of communication barriers and lack to awareness of health professionals. Deafness can be a life or death affair. Description of a typical day for JA now. Whole family involved in facilitating JA’s work with DDS. Vital ongoing role of support groups – perceived need for widening network across country.

  • Description

    Interviewed for the project 'Unhead Voices: Interviews With Deafened People', conducted by Hearing Link in 2008 and 2009 in partnership with the British Library, and funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

  • Related transcripts

    Jane Atkinson interviewed by Vivienne Keightley: full transcript of the interview (PDF)

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