My journey back to life after hearing loss

Feature on the Deaf & Hearing Support Company in Chesterfield. Pictured are Jill Branston who has been helped by the company and  co-ordinator Janet Millard.
Feature on the Deaf & Hearing Support Company in Chesterfield. Pictured are Jill Branston who has been helped by the company and co-ordinator Janet Millard.

If you have ever woken up in bed while on holiday and wondered where you are for the first few moments of consciousness then you will know how disorientating that can be.

But for Jill Branson the confusion was much worse when she awoke in a Spanish hospital almost completely deaf and with no memory of how she got there.

The Chesterfield mother-of-two, aged 55, had suffered almost complete loss of her hearing after contracting meningitis while on holiday in 2005.

And she now faced the massive ordeal of coming to terms with permanent loss of hearing, except for 25 per cent in her right ear.

Luckily, Jill was fortunate enough to have the Deaf and Hearing Support service on her doorstep here in Chesterfield to get her back on the road to living a normal life.

“I remember having a really sore throat,” said Jill. “Then things really went downhill and my husband took me to the medical centre and they took me to hospital.

“And I have no recollection of the two-three days that followed but when I woke up my hearing had gone.

“I kind of thought my ears would heal and it would come back - but it didn’t.”

After spending more than two weeks in a Spanish hospital Jill was given the long-term outlook during a hearing test back in England.

She was supplied with two NHS hearing aids but now faced the long, hard road back to functioning in society, which is where the Deaf and Hearing Support service stepped in.

“There were fantastic,” said Jill. “They provided me with information about things which I could use at home such as a flashing fire alarm and an amplified phone.

“And they were just so supportive of what I was going through and gave me the extra help I needed to go back to work.”

Staff at the service contacted Jill to let her know about a portable audio induction loop she could use at her place of work.

The equipment - a loop of cable which is placed around a room - generates a magnetic field which can be picked up by a hearing aid.

“That made a massive difference,” said Jill. “It was paramount in allowing me to go back to work.

“If it was not for Janet and Anne at the centre I would not have known about it existing.”

The hearing centre also put Jill in touch with Deaflink - a support service for hard-of-hearing and deafened people and their families.

Jill said: “A representative comes to your house and speaks to your family about the effect that hearing loss has.

“They involved my daughters with fingerspelling sheets - it was a massive thing for us to deal with but you get through it with support from friends and family.”

With support from the Deaf and Hearing Support service Jill eventually went back to work and even went on to open her own restaurant in Chesterfield but admits that without their help the journey would have been much harder.

At present staff at the centre are awaiting the results of a consultation by Derbyshire County Council over cuts to services such as theirs.

Co-ordinator Janet Millard said if there was a significant cut to county council funding it was hard to know what the future of the service would be.

She added: “This is a service that you cannot get anywhere else in North Derbyshire and if it goes it will put a lot more pressure on the hospital.”

A Derbyshire County Council spokesman said: “We are currently looking to include all providers currently receiving funding from us to look at different ways of working.

“It is likely that future proposals will ensure more people can access appropriate support when they need it across the county.”