Terri-Ann, Musician and Lead singer from Nalgo Bay

I First Heard of Terri-Ann after seeing her featured in a Instagram Video being interviewed by BBC York radio station on her recent diagnosis of Hearing loss. I reached out to her immediately after watching her bravely talk about her diagnosis and offered support to her, we arranged a chat and she offered to share her story with our readers in the hope it helps someone who is in a similar situation, and hopes to connect with other musicians with hearing loss.

So please welcome Terri Ann in her own words….

I was born with my hearing in perfect order but then I was around 17 years old, I started noticing that I kept getting the lyrics wrong when singing along to songs. When with friends, I kept mis-hearing them and asking them to repeat themselves constantly.

We went on an all girls holiday and my ‘nickname” on the back of my T-shirt was “You what?”. At the time making a joke of it seemed to be the best way to stifle the reality that I was having trouble listening and understanding. I tried to ignore my issues throughout University but I remember one day being in a lecture and I just couldn’t understand what the tutor was saying. It was then that I decided to go and have my hearing tested. My hearing loss began minimal and as the years have gone by I have lost
more and more. I found out this year that I have a very rare form of genetic deafness resulting in high frequency hearing loss. The loss can be triggered at any age but will result in total deafness eventually.

For me, my journey so far has been incredibly difficult. I came into this world with all of my hearing and grew and developed into who I was based on all of the senses that were available to me. I had decided what I like to do and who I am, including pursuing my profession. I am a musician, I sing and play the
Bass. In the beginning, I could manage, mostly from pretending it wasn’t happening and by keeping it a secret from those around me. I could still hear all of the music pretty well and so I cracked on. But as more of my hearing has left me, my life has changed a lot. It’s been a gradual process but I still wasn’t
prepared. Now, I wear hearing aids in both ears and rely on lip reading to communicate. I struggle mostly with conversation as the consonants in speech are all mid frequencies. This year, my partner and I have started to learn sign language in order for him to translate more effectively and to try and prepare for the
future a little more. I have had to adapt over the years when listening and playing music. I learnt to play the bass (over guitar) due to its low frequencies being more audible to me. I have to rely on muscle memory mostly when I sing and my bandmates help me tremendously when we are performing. My other senses have heightened with visual and physical cues playing a bigger part.

Since being more outspoken about your deafness in your recent BBC York radio interview, how has this been for you?
In all honesty, that interview was massive for me. I’ve always felt the need to hide my deafness and worried about people finding out. My fear was that people would doubt my abilities as a musician if they knew I had hearing loss. Having difficulties hearing is problematic enough without having the extra
pressure of trying to keep it a secret. I would get enormous amounts of anxiety and panic when in certain situations, worrying that I looked stupid because I hadn’t heard. Before the interview with Jericho Keys I was terrified! I felt like I was “coming out” in a way. But I’m very glad it happened because something has shifted.
When people saw the interview, they approached me to talk about it. This has been quite therapeutic for me to discuss my hearing loss with different people because it normalises it. Immediately after the interview came out I had a chat with a lad I’ve known since school who didn’t know about my hearing before the interview. During our conversation he stopped and asked me if he was speaking too fast and
this shocked me in a wonderful way! Before the interview, I thought it was pointless to tell people because it wouldn’t change anything for me. I still wouldn’t be able to hear them. But I was wrong. People can do things to help me understand. By facing me and speaking slowly and clearly with their lip patterns. I used to feel like I was being an inconvenience for asking people to make extra effort just for me but
I am now at a point where I’ve come to accept that this is my reality. And more often than not, people don’t mind making the extra effort for me. And if they do mind…then maybe they’re not worth talking to after all! The most liberating thing for me however, had been finding the courage to wear my hair up and not feel the need to hide my hearing aids anymore. I even bought different coloured tubes to decorate my aids and colour coordinate them with my outfits! Something maybe very small but up until recently, I would be pulling my hair down to go to the corner shop to buy milk in case someone saw my hearing aids. All that self-consciousness is a waste of my energy. And to be honest, half the time people don’t notice or they’re not bothered as much as you think they will be! When I see someone with hearing aids out and about now I want to go over and say hi to them (but I don’t as they might think I’m a little strange!) but It’s comforting in a way. I hate the stigma around deafness and hearing aids and I
want to help break this down.

What are your hopes and dreams for the future?

This is a tricky one for me, because I now know that in the future, eventually, I may be totally deaf. I will continue to play and make music for as long as I can but I have to accept that there may come a point where I can’t do it anymore. Some people have said to me that I am a fool for not making a Plan B but I’ve never been ready to give up my plan A whilst I still can. In terms of career, I haven’t yet decided what will happen. But music is about more than listening. It’s about feel and connection, and hopefully I will always hold onto some sounds meaning I can still play and write music. As life has played out, I’ve realised that with some work and support, there are always options and solutions. We’re constantly changing and adapting and that is what is brilliant about being human. Due to my recent diagnosis, I now know that if I ever have children in the future there is a 50% chance that they will inherit the dominant gene and knowing this will help us to prepare should this ever happen. Life doesn’t have to be super difficult with hearing loss, there are so many things that can be done to help the situation.
I am really enjoying learning sign language and am thrilled to hear that it will be rolled out into main stream schools in 2025. I’m really excited at the level of awareness that is being generated online and
in the media about deafness. People like Rose Ayling Ellis and Tasha Ghouri are opening up conversations about deafness and this is inspiring. It is super helpful when raising awareness about captioning for example. Where we’re at with available technology in 2023, there is no reason why subtitles should not
be provided on every streaming service, it should be mandatory. All in all, no one knows what the future holds but I am definitely more focused on what I can change over what I can’t.

What would you advise those who are coming to terms with hearing loss later in life ?

Obviously hearing loss is unique to everyone and I only speak from my experience and of someone who wasn’t born deaf. I will be transparent in saying that it has been and still is an emotional journey for me. It’s very difficult to come to term with a loss that doesn’t come to an end but continues. And
every day, the difficulties faced when listening and understanding are a constant reminder of this. Tasha Ghouri describes her hearing loss as her superpower and although I like this idea, in many ways, I can’t relate. But what I have come to understand is that it is so pointless spending energy on things that you can’t change. When it comes to hearing loss, currently, we can’t change it. And although it can be problematic, why should we have to change it? I only struggle because of the world around me being a hearing world. So much of what we experience comes from our other senses. Other people can do extra things to help you and you shouldn’t be afraid to ask for this. It’s not an inconvenience for people, if anything, they want to help. There are tools and skills available to access and learn from. There are
amazing hearing aids available on the NHS, handy live subtitle apps and some great sign language courses available all over the country. And for our mental wellbeing, talk about it if you need to.
Since my interview, I have found so many brilliant people online (just like Amy from living with hearing loss!) and I feel less alone. I’m always happy to meet new people so feel free to reach out!

If anyone is struggling I would say, talk about it. Grieving is a process and loosing your hearing is still a loss. It’s a loss that keeps happening every day. The more you talk about it the more normal it becomes. I would also say, try to accept what is happening or what the reality is. Pretending everything is
fine just makes it worse in the long term, physically and mentally. It has taken me a long time to say this but we are who we are and if we spend time fighting this instead of embracing it, we’re just restricting ourselves. Differences between us can be creative and inspiring. Life isn’t something that just happens to you, it’s what we make it. I spent a long time feeling negative about my deafness but I have come to realise that I am not any less of a person because of my loss, and neither are you.

Terri-Ann x

To Watch Terri-Ann Interview with BBC radio York please head to the you tube link here.

To follow Terri-Ann please head across to her Instagram Account: @terriannmusic

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