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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.