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How Rose Ayling-Ellis’ Appearance on Strictly Helped me Come to Terms With Being Deaf

When I was just seven years old, the unthinkable happened. I was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive benign mass that was tearing its way through my eardrum: a cholesteatoma. Cholesteatoma affects just one in 100,00 – and is even rarer when it’s congenital (meaning you’re born with it, which my doctors are almost certain that I was). 

When I was 7 and a half, I had my first surgery – what would be the first of many – to remove the tumour. When I woke up, my hearing was worse than it was before. The mass had caused irreparable damage. We tried many forms of treatment, including further surgeries, before I was referred to the audiology department, where I was fitted with my first-ever hearing aid. 

Going deaf at a young age, when everyone in your family – and pretty much everyone you have ever known– are hearing is so hard. There is no one to look up to, no one to see that is also deaf that would show me that, while it would take a little while to come to terms with my deafness, I would be okay. That there was an amazing community and there was beauty within being deaf.  

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Why Rose Ayling-Ellis’ Appearance on Strictly Come Dancing is Important to the Deaf and Disabled Community

As a dancer who is profoundly Deaf and a wheelchair user, I’ve been ecstatic over Rose Ayling-Ellis being the first Deaf contestant to take part on Strictly. Finally, the perfect opportunity to help dispel some of the stigmas towards Deaf people. For Deaf dancers, society’s assumptions and attitude are that we can’t dance if we can’t hear the music.

Deafness is a spectrum that means that two Deaf people – regardless of their audiograms – will experience music very differently. It will depend on the tones and frequencies that a person can access with their residual hearing, as well as any devices that the person uses, such as hearing aids, cochlear implants, or other technology.

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As a Deaf Person I Feel More Excluded Than Ever Before in the Pandemic

In the time before Covid, being deaf in a hearing world was tricky, but manageable. Those of us living with hearing loss found ways to handle our interactions with hearing society, be that technology or interpreters. For the most part we vaulted our hurdles as naturally as walking. It meant adaptations and hard work but, in the main, we got along with the status quo.

But then the world changed with the arrival of Covid-19 and entirely new hurdles presented themselves; tall, mighty and unmovable. Our strategies had to adapt, and we were going to need help. 

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Life and Anxieties as a Deaf Woman in the Wake of Sarah Everard’s Murder

TW: Murder of Sarah Everard, sexual assault/harassment concerns, victim blaming. There are links to places to find support at the bottom of this article.

I jump when my sister walks up behind me in the kitchen, then we watch my Fitbit as my heart rate comes down almost double because of the scare. I don’t know if my parents were scared about me growing up as a deaf young woman. They knew I was fiercely determined and were probably quite afraid to get in my way but I am moderately deaf and don’t hear footsteps, even those of the people I love most, even in the quietest of houses.