But before all that to the story of a young woman from south west Scotland who was so terrified of being different from others, what she ignored her hearing loss for years. Now she’s urging young people to accept themselves as they are and get on with life. These days Jenny Wells is a star player in the Doonhame Derby Dolls that’s the roller derby club in Dumfries. She’s using her position to try and help others and she’s enlisted the help of Fixers the campaign which gives young people a voice.
Upbeat music A few years ago I really can’t imagine I would have had the courage to go and join a sport like roller derby. I think a big issue in my life was always fixated on my hearing loss and I never thought I could achieve anything. Just because the shame was so significant at that point in my life, so it took a lot to overcome it and to finally accept myself and my disability and make it a real part of my identity. I’m Jenny Wells, I’m 23 and I’m from Dumfries.
I’m working with Fixers to help young people overcome any shame they have of their hearing loss. I was born with a genetic hearing loss and started wearing hearing aids from birth, right up until I was 13 years old which is when I decided to stop wearing them. I had a really bad experience, with bully basically, just because of my hearing loss, so I thought if I could remove my hearing aid then I’m removing the disability. I was just so ashamed that I was different from other people.
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And I just really wanted to be the same. Two years ago my little brother Jack had to have an operation to get cochlear implants which meant he couldn’t hide his hearing loss, that was a permanent part of his life now, so I thought I really needed too step up and overcome my fear of my hearing loss so that that little boy could have someone to look up to. I’d really like other young people to realise that if you’re born with hearing loss you can’t change it, so it’s better just to make it part of your identity, to own it and be proud of yourself.
There might be some barriers along the way, but if you work hard you can achieve the same things as everyone else. There doesn’t need to be any shame at all. It is common for deaf children and young people to be ashamed of their deafness. Part of it’s about the stigma attached to being different and the impact that can have in lives. Embracing your deaf identity is actually one of the key components of being able to lead a kind of fulfilled life and feel that you’re able to be who you are.
Roller derby has probably become the biggest part of my life now, I certainly wouldn’t want to imagine my life without it now. Today I’m talking to my team mate Sharon Beattie. She’s just been fitted with a hearing aids. I knew I was struggling with my ears physically, but I didn’t realise how much I couldn’t hear until it was pointed out to me. Has it affected how it makes you feel about yourself Yeah, I felt it was an embarrassment to say, I can’t hear you. Sometimes you want to wear a badge that says ‘I can’t hear you,’.
And then sometimes you just want to hide away, and not deal with it. Do you feel like you’re growing confidence now Definitely, I feel like I did spend a good while hiding from it, and saying I’m not going to wear them today, it’s just going to be too much for me now I’m like no you need to do this, this is what I need to do to get on. It feels absolutely amazing to be able to speak on behalf people with a hearing loss. I hope that other young people will be able to see this and feel inspired.