Please welcome the incredible John Clark to our Living with Hearing Loss Blog Space. John is going to be a regular on our blog. John wants to share some insights into how he has managed his new hearing loss diagnosis in the hope this helps others feel validated, supported and heard.
John is married with a family of four small humans, he owns (alongside his wife) a gym, a business consultancy and a coffee shop and he is a former strongman that now plays rugby in his spare time alongside raising money for charities and spending time with his young family.
Over recent years John has won Britain’s Natural Strongest Man x2, Midlands Strongest Man x2, ran 48 marathons in 48 days in the 48 counties of England, completed Marathon des Sables and held world records in multiple events and has helped raise over £100,000 for charities.
Losing My hearing by John Clark
I took out my right headphone to hear what he was saying and suddenly realised my left earphone was broken as nothing was playing.
I finished the conversation and put the “broken headphone” to my other ear to check it and instantly realised that no, it wasn’t what was broken, it was my hearing.
Maybe it was time I had to accept the truth,
I was losing my hearing.
The signs had been there for a while, I’d just ignored them.
Watching the television with the volume bar in the high 80’s, secretly putting subtitles on when home alone, having to turn my hands free volume to max when driving, constantly turning my head so people could speak towards my right ear.
I’d been plagued by ear infections throughout my adult life and every time they cleared up I could tell the hearing wasn’t right but as we all do, I just convinced myself it will be ok, it will come back.
Then it becomes your new normal until you begin to really realise the impact it’s having on your everyday life.
Then an incident like the earphones really demonstrates how much has changed and now, maybe, just maybe, you need to accept it and do something about it…
A few months later, I sat in a specialists waiting room awaiting the results of MRI, X-Ray, Blood Tests and CT scans, I contemplated all the things I’d somewhat unintentionally stopped doing as I couldn’t really hear.
How I’d stopped coaching, I’d removed myself from many social circles, I’d started to dread playing rugby and even small things like choosing certain restaurants to go to with my wife that I knew would be quiet.
I decided there and then, regardless of the results, I need to stop letting this dictate how I live my life.
“So, what’s the news?” I asked tentatively.
Considering we’d spoken about things ranging from brain tumours to tinnitus I had no clue what was going to come next.
“Unfortunately the tests have shown nothing. Your hearing loss continues to worsen, we don’t know why, your left ear is relatively shot and your right is deteriorating. In brief, you need hearing aids and you should prepare yourself for the worst.”
Then without a moment’s hesitation to let that sink in, he hit me with the killer line,
“If it continues at this rate you will need to consider sign language and living with profound deafness”
That was the long, short and extent of the NHS “specialist” support. A few days later my ears were cast for hearing aids, a few weeks later they arrived and fitted by the most kind and considerate nurse that took me through how to put them in, adjust them, get used to them and what to expect next.
This is it, I’m 34 and have hearing aids. How has it come to this?
I’d decided I’d only wear them at home or around people I knew wouldn’t ridicule me.
We’ve all seen the videos “husband hears his wife’s voice for the first time” and whilst I wasn’t that bad within hours of wearing my aids I quickly realised how bad my hearing really is.
From the sizzle of the bacon as it hits the pan to the gentle cooing of the birds in the trees, the little giggles of my children when they’re up to no good and even the sound of my car engine kicking into life.
A bittersweet moment and one I sat at home and teared up over.
Smiling at this new lease of life and empowerment that had just become unlocked for me.
Quietly dying on the inside that even though it’s been returned, it might not be for long.
How can I go back to living without these? Maybe I need to consider just wearing them in public?
A bold step but I need to live by my previous words in that it will not define me anymore.
I drove over to our gym and took a bold step, one I never imagined doing. I walked through the door, aids in, on and on display and awaited the deluge of abuse disguised as “banter”.
But, it never came. People didn’t even notice, acknowledge or mention them.
Clients smiled as they realised they could speak with me again and I was able to engage in actual conversations. I realised how much I’d been screwing my face up trying to hear and countless people said I seemed happier as a result.
I started coaching again and on mentioning my hearing loss to new members so they knew why they may have to repeat themselves, many would comment they hadn’t even noticed I was using hearing aids or shared stories of relatives and loved ones that also deal with hearing loss.
Walking around the supermarket I suddenly saw countless people also wearing them. It isn’t until you start looking you realise how many people actually rely on them and how there isn’t the stigma you’d expect.
For so long I’d worried about what the future would look like if I had needed them and I need not have spent so much energy on something that just never happened.
As a wise man said, “I have bad eyes, I wear glasses. You have bad ears, you wear aids. It’s all the same”
With profound hearing loss I have won Strongman titles, completed 48 marathons in 48 days, ran across the Sahara Desert, raised £100,000 for charity (more on that another time) set up and run four successful businesses and most importantly have an incredible wife and little family.
Whilst I sit here cringing at that self applauding paragraph, I write it to simply make a significant point.
Hearing loss – It doesn’t have to stop you. It doesn’t have to define you.
I say to all the clients I work with, whether it be for fat loss or for sporting performance, the first step to overcoming a problem is to identify it, to accept it, to take ownership and to decide how you want to tackle it.
If you’re reading this and have hearing issues that you’ve been hiding from, maybe you’re waiting for a specialist appointment concerned what a life with aids will be like, or you’ve been putting off needing help, if my story can help in anyway it’s to demonstrate two things;
Firstly, I can count on one hand the times my hearing has been ridiculed, laughed at or been the butt of a joke.
It doesn’t have to be the end of your life as you know it.
There will be some uncomfortable conversations, decisions and changes but; treat it like the start of a new normal and a chance to accept your situation.
Once you accept it, you can start to learn to overcome it and live life successfully and on your terms with it.
Secondly – don’t let it hold you back, don’t let fear stop you getting it looked at, don’t let it be the reason you look back in years time wishing you’d have not let it be a barrier to doing what you want with your life, relationships and careers.
I won’t ever sugarcoat it, it’s hard, it’s frustrating, it’s damn hard at times but it will be part of a chapter in your own book that you can look back on knowing that you overcame it.
Hearing loss, it’s not the end. It’s just a new, but different start.
However, this is just part of my story.
My hearing has deteriorated further since being fitted for aids and I now am unable to wear them; but more on that in another post if you’ve got this far and want to read more in the future from me.
For now, I wanted to cover the realisation of my hearing loss, the acceptance of it and the first steps to overcoming a life without hearing – it starts with you.
Be kind to yourself, take ownership of it and move forwards. Use your support networks, hell, reach out to me if you don’t have one.
People are far more understanding, supportive and encouraging than you realise.
And as I sign every post off, remember these three little words:
Keep Moving Forwards.