Applying to Uni with a Hearing Disability
When I was a baby I had ear infections constantly, which resulted in a permanent perforation in my right eardrum and the degradation of the three bones, meaning vibrations can’t pass through and I am unable to hear in that ear. I also lost all high pitch hearing, which is really not as bad as it sounds since it means I can’t hear the fridge whistling.
Day to day life is not much different for me because I am lucky enough to still have one functioning ear; I have a hearing aid which I use when I catch a cold and my hearing is reduced further, or if I have an irritatingly softly spoken lecturer or coursemate. When walking with pals I always subtly switch sides so I am walking on their right, meaning I can hear them properly with my left ear. Anyone who stands on my right is unfortunately ignored, tough.
In Primary 6 I had to choose a language to learn at school and the paediatric audiologists recommended that I shouldn’t try to learn a language since it would be difficult for me to hear. If I hadto learn a language, out of the French, German, and Spanish offered at my school, German would be best owing to its more aggressive sounds. For example, I find it very hard to hear the sound an “s” makes, but German uses a “sch” sound instead of the “sss” which is often found in Spanish. Voila, I ended up enjoying learning languages enough to take up French and Chinese, and study German at university.
On uni open days, one of the questions I always asked was what support I would receive with regard to my hearing loss. At Warwick, I can request a recording of lectures which aren’t normally recorded, for example in the German department where lectures are never recorded, and I can apply for priority disabled accommodation. For me, this means a room with a loud fire alarm with a flashing light connected, and a plug socket for a vibrating pillow alarm. The flat I was allocated in first year was my first choice of residence, Sherbourne, was on the ground floor and the resident tutor lived in an apartment within our flat but separate to us other ten or so students. When the test fire alarm went off in the early morning of one of the first few weeks of first year, the resident tutor came and hammered on my door to make sure I was up, almost leading to a heart attack what with all the other sensory overload, but it was nevertheless effective to say the least.
My experience with the disability services has been only good. Having registered with the university disability service in first year I receive regular emails about opportunities which may interest people with all different kinds of disability, for example job and research opportunities, forums, and more information on support available. I have never had issues with the German department side of things either; the few times I have requested a recording this has been made easily available to me.
In terms of social life, I am not great at hearing in loud group situations or in places which have a lot of background noise, meaning I sometimes struggle at pre-drinks, restaurants, or in seminars when everyone is talking in groups to each other. However, the friends I have made here have been fantastic in looking out for me – recently I visited a friend while on our year abroad in Germany and we went out to a restaurant. Someone sat down in the seat which I would have taken, on the right hand side of the table, and before I could react my friend told them to move so I could have that seat and hear better. I was weirdly touched by the whole thing, and it goes to show that having a disability like mine will not render you an outcast at uni.