One night and it is gone, going deaf.

Going deaf overnight.

I was asked just the other day. “How did you go deaf or is too traumatic for you to talk about still?” Not at all and far from it. Here is how it happened. Sad, perhaps, but, I have lived another forty years since then. Something, really something.

Whilst doing National Service in the Rhodesian army I got a few cuts and scrapes whilst skirmishing and unfortunately these turned septic. By the time I got into the army hospital my heart was starting to play up and this was wrongly diagnosed as Rheumatic Fever and I was treated accordingly. Eight days later I was dying and the Army transferred me to a civilian hospital and it was here that they found I had Septicaemia. I was put on a heavy course of antibiotics which my body rejected. A new drug was then tried.

When you are 18yrs old lying deathly sick in hospital and listening to the top 20 hits from Lourenco Marques in Mozambique and you wake up the next morning, to find that whatever drugs the doctor’s gave you have left you irreversibly deaf. Then life suddenly takes on a new meaning and you instinctively know that from here on it’s going to get tough.

In today’s world, what happened would be seen as a catalogue of errors. This might be true of the Army, but it almost certainly wasn’t true of the civilian hospital.

Even the Doctors are unsure.

Or they are leading you into the bad news.

My going deaf took everybody by surprise, the doctor’s knew about as much about this as I did. It will be about a week before you hear again ok. Then two weeks, then three , then six and about this time it dawns on you, oh oh, this means I’m in big trouble ( apart from the dying of course ) but they haven’t the heart to tell me.

Having said that, I had the highest regards for the doctors who fought so hard to save my life and I always will. One has to

In hospital here.

remember that this happened many years ago and within the context of the times septicaemia was a big killer and very few people who got it then, survived. Guess I’m just lucky hey? Even when I met my wife years later ( a nurse ) she went on and on about it should never have happened.

The difference being that I’m the one who went through it. I saw it with my own eyes and I heard it before I went deaf. You see what really happened is that I became one of those people who medicine warns you about. Don’t get involved with your patient. As it turned out it wasn’t just the doctor’s it was the whole hospital.

An example being after the nurses had just given me a bed bath and changed my sheets. The matron would arrive and tell them off for not making the bed and they would have to do it again. She was Irish by the way. When the nurses went on leave they all sent me postcards. The doctor’s couldn’t sleep at night worrying about me.

Believe me, it’s what saved my life.

White light experience.

Fact or fiction?

As it turns out I was watching a re-run of one of the episodes in the television series House, last night and it reminded me of something. Normally I keep quiet about this, but seeing as I’m on ‘moving pieces’ and talking of my life experiences, I have now decided to add this.

I was in hospital for at least four months and it may have been longer, bedridden throughout that time apart from a couple of

Darrara Church.

weeks towards the end. The correct sequence of events has dimmed in my memory. However I do remember that I was already deaf at the time. One night I woke up to find at least ten doctor’s surrounding my bed. The next sequence is what my mother told me. She was staying in the town Bulawayo with friends so that she could be close to me during this time.

On leaving my bed site the doctor in charge of my case rang her up that night and said that she had better come to the hospital as I wouldn’t make it to the morning.

Now my own words, sometime that night I had a white light experience. Whether this was a hallucination or not is not for me to say. As best I can remember I never went to the pearly gates, I never spoke to anyone but it was the most intense light I have ever seen. I’m not an overly religious person but my mother is.

I woke that morning to find my mother holding my hand. I was still as deaf as a stone, but believe it or not from that day on I started getting better.

Actually they only let me out as my Mum was a former nurse and had spent all this time in Bulawayo staying with friends and visiting me every day and night. The staff had got to know her well.

Eventually I was released from hospital in a wheelchair and so thin that I could fit my hand around my leg above my knee. Then came the slow process of first, trying to put on some weight, learning to walk and finally finding a specialist who had the guts to tell me that I would never hear again.

Bang went my plans of becoming a lawyer and so I was left with going to Agricultural college

Learning to Lip Read.

I had a wonderful teacher.

First of course I had to learn to lipread. Amazingly my teacher had a fiance, who was doing national service the same time as I was. Prior to this I was walking around with a note book for people to write to me on and trying to get off with women like this and being unable to understand;
why not?

Was I someone different, a new Spook, a totally different person? Obviously not, but the slow process of being deaf was first felt

Me when recovered but deaf.

hard this way. Ah yes the lipreading. My teacher said that she would not start to teach me, until I told her that I was DUMB.

I could speak perfectly and wouldn’t have it. I held out for a few weeks and then my commonsense told me it was imperative that I learn; so I told her I was DUMB and began learning. Later when I knew her well, I asked her about why she said this to me and I’ve never forgotten her reply?

She told me that of all the afflictions, that deafness had the least sympathy with Joe public and the sooner I learnt that the better and forty years later she’s still right.

Anyway I went to college, passed as well as any normal person and got my diploma. Had a ball and made so many lifelong friends. I’m not bragging when I say, I’ll put money on it, that I was the best liked person there.

Also I was playing first class cricket and more importantly I was finally managing to make it with the women.

The interim years.

So much to be grateful for.

Since then I have married, had three wonderful children, owned my own farm, made and lost an awful lot of money, lived a full life, had a cochlear ear implant, which enables me to hear sound. Was captain of the golf club for two years and here I am in

My family at my son’s 21st.

Ireland back to square one.

There’s no respect for any of my achievements or for my stand; to show that the deaf can be as succesful as any hearing person and sometimes even more so; but no matter what you do or what you accomplish, you are just this dummy.

I am so sick and tired of fighting this and somehow wish I could start a movement, where once and for all we the deaf, could finally get the hearing to understand.

Sometimes I am amazed by them. For example coming up so close to your ear, so you cannot lip read them and then shouting in your ear. Hey hang, on we the silly ones, so how come you can’t work out I’m deaf even though I’ve told you, or in other words if I can’t hear:” Why shout”, so who’s being silly?.

I am going to try and add a bit more to what I have already touched on. As far as I’m concerned I’ve led an interesting and varied life. At times I’ve been very successful and at other times not so successful. I mean this last statement purely from a monetary point of view.

Having said that I also believe that having been profoundly deaf for forty years now, that I’ve been successful from that point of view as well. One must remember that I always competed against the hearing world and you know what, I think I did just as well as any of them and a lot better than lots of them?

To the best of my knowledge I’ve only ever met two other deaf people, one of whom I was able to encourage to have a Cochlear ear Implant, as he was worried about having it done. I’m not sure whether I’m a nice person or not,(probably not),but I must say I got enormous pleasure from doing this and more importantly seeing the great benefits which he got from this.

Actually I’m veering away from what I really want to say. You know when this first happened to me. I always believed that it was up to me; to make hearing people comfortable and not for them to be comfortable with me.

I tried so hard to fight the prejudice and always stood up for hearing people when reading deaf peoples views about them being non caring and thinking that you are stupid and always believed that you have to fight this and bring them around and onto to side.

Now however after forty years of fighting it, just lately, in the last few years have come up against this all over again and at last begin to understand the deaf perspective and sadly, agree with it.


Final thoughts.

Just going to add a final little postscript here so everybody can get my take on things. You know when all is said and done. The

Beautiful Ireland in Ring.

best thing that ever happened to me was going deaf. I was a far better person after this than I was before. Moreover it taught me many things throughout my life that I never would have seen or learnt without going deaf.

I’ll stand by that statement.


About spookmoor

I'm a 61 year old happily married man with three grown up children. I lost all my hearing as an eighteen year old whilst doing National Service and then had a Cochlear Ear Implant twenty years later. I love trying to explain these things to people and bits about my life. I never thought so at the time, but it was the best thing that ever happened to me. Thus one gets Random ramblings from a man who has seen a lot with a touch of humour underlying all.
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83 Responses to One night and it is gone, going deaf.

  1. I’m amazed, I have to admit. Rarely do I encounter a blog that’s equally educative and engaging, and let me tell you, you have hit the nail on the head. The problem is something that too few men and women are speaking intelligently about. I’m very happy that I stumbled across this in my hunt for something relating to this.

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  3. Andy says:

    Thanks Spook, I have an nuroma that has destroyed my hearing in the right area nad reduced somewhat in the left. I was getting hacked off with being treated like I was simple (because I can’t hear) and like you said , people bellow at you. Because I can “hear ” my voice through the crainal vibrations, I whisper back. Thanks for the chuckle I know I am not alone and by the way, learning to lip read is a lot harder than you make out!

    • spookmoor says:

      I thought it was easy, it is the practice which is hard as there is only so much you can look for. Never forget it is about getting the gist of what they are saying to you and not every word.

  4. AS I started reading I was thinking my comment should be that “it happened to allow you to become the person, the man the …. well let’s just say yo become “Spook” “But you said it all for me. I do believe wholeheartedly that adversity in life is sent to test us and by succeeding when have achieved the tasks set before us. We have moved one step closer to becoming a better person. No having said that .. I know that my own struggles against adversity made me an awful youngster and for that I have no excuse other than to say, it was part of becoming who I am today, and allowing me to appreciate, admire and respect others in this world who have overcome their own challenges. So in ending Spook .. thank you for what you have brought to our lives and I salute you for becoming the man you are today, family and all. Keep sharing your words for by reading them we all become a little better by your example. All the best

  5. Maggi says:

    Morning from Down Under Spook – Zero degrees outside and maybe some sun today. My husband is partially deaf in his left ear, also from his time in the army. I find myself habitually standing on his right side so that I do not have to talk louder so he can hear me – and I often find myself having to explain this to people why he talks loudly because he cannot hear himself properly, mostly only our oldies or folk having been in similar situations understand this. Thanks for being such an inspiration and yes many young folk would benefit from your situation and how you have managed. Have a wonderful day.

  6. Robyn Sumpter (nee Beghin) formerly from Selous says:

    I remember hearing via the grapevine when this happened to you, but I never knew the full story. Thank you for sharing it Kevin. You certainly haven’t let it hold you back, I am full of admiration for you.

  7. Pingback: Spook – A Much Admired Acquaintance… | Bardiness

  8. Gomer Pyle says:

    Thanks for your share Spook, as always it made interesting reading…..
    It strikes me that all trauma, war or accident related is sudden and never planned. Reaction to the trauma is always shock to one degree or another and the pain .. aah yes, the pain, be it physical or mental or emotional, it is there, acknowledged or not, it is still there …. What we do with all this ‘STUFF’, determines whether we are victims with related mentality and ability or victors, dealing with, rising above and pushing ourselves beyond perceived boundaries ….. never forgetting and forever thankful for those who stood by, rooted for and put up with misdirected anger and frustration on the healing journey.
    I am always awed and greatly humbled at the achievements attained by handicapped people, my respect knows no bounds. This awe and respect has always overshadowed the pity I feel, though sympathy is always there (how can one not sympathize with another at the loss of hearing, sight, limb or other … this is beyond my comprehension)… How i convey this sympathy may be very clumsy on every level for many reasons, but it is never my intention to offend.
    Family and friends who have walked the road with you, I would like to think, are always astounded and so, so proud of every milestone achieved and every hurdle overcome, whereas strangers are completely ignorant of what it’s taken to achieve the success you now enjoy, or for that matter the totality of your accomplishments – coming from a close knit society as that in Rhodesia, to settle in a new environment among a peoples who have little idea of what Rhodesia was and even less where it is, is hard enough without having to throw deafness into the mix. Their ignorance, made evident in their attitudes and gestures, needs to be treated as just that ‘ignorance’ … and thus treated with the contempt that it deserves …. To do otherwise could prove to be a little more than frustrating and would ultimately taint ones outlook on people and life in general. Respect from the ignorant is hollow and empty at best. You have the respect of those that count, even though some may not say so in as many words, the respect is there, and that’s all that ultimately counts.

    A thought just crossed my mind ….. I thinks in some small measure your frustration can be likened to and compared to the frustration woman have felt when called to work in a mans environment or male dominated works areas … they are usually treated as idiots and their achievements are seldom acknowledged!

    It would be great, in my humble opinion, if you could pass on your knowledge and share your experience and expertise with young people who are similarly afflicted, to encourage, inspire and develop within them, a vision that is greater than what they think they can achieve in their life times (because they are treated as dummy’s) …. would, to my mind, bring a huge sense of fulfillment, that it was not all in vain .. so to speak … just a thought ! I know it’s probably totally impractical, but it a nice thought (for me) all the same ……
    Finally, I would like to say that I for one, am very awed and impressed at what you have achieved in your life and am privileged to be counted among your friends. May you continue to enlighten the dull that surround you with flair and humour, trashing all else. You have set and have been, a wonderful example to many, especially your family and friends and will continue to be, for many years yet to come, and they are the only ones that matter at the end of the day ! Be Blessed !

  9. Maria Downes says:

    Very interesting Spook and how tragic but what an interesting character you are

    • spookmoor says:

      Delighted with your visit and comment Maria. I’ll say it again, you see, because oddly enough it was the best thing that ever happened to me, strange as that may sound.

  10. Sue Twells says:

    What a guy. My cousin was born deaf and still struggles with Joe Public. Rick was in the army and I hope this doesn’t sound too mean, but it could have been him. You are an inspiration. All the very best. Sue

  11. frankiekay says:

    How did you learn volume control? My husband was blown up (twice) and is partially deaf and we spend alot of time yelling at each other…

    • spookmoor says:

      Very good question, lets just say practice. I had the tendency to speak too quietly but at the same time often, and I mean often, spoke far too loud.

      • frankiekay says:

        He never speaks too softly…he is also selectively deaf….
        At least your wife doesn’t have to make all the mmm I’m listening sounds…hey?
        I have hand actions if he is speaking too loudly…esp when there is background noise..he can hardly hear anything at all then, sort of how you describe when you first got the transplant…he says its like listening underwater

      • spookmoor says:

        The thing to remember is that deafness has the least sympathy with Joe Public. I only hear what I want to hear too. It beggars belief what normal people like to believe? The other thing to remember is we fail to understand what normal hearing is like as it has passed us by and in it’s own way can be terribly frustrating.

      • frankiekay says:

        Try headaches…my husband had one most days, until we stopped gluten…imagine all those years…I think is because you can’t see a headache or deafness…you can see a missing leg or an open wound. Strangely, since he improved his diet he insists he can hear better, but sadly still not well enough to play the violin – put both his musical instruments away after he got out of the army.
        I would be terrible with you…I talk awfully fast – I only get away with it with my husband cos I have a (very) penetrating voice and cos he has heard it all before!! Also, you get all the actions and hand movements…

      • spookmoor says:

        Plus he can’t hear you.

  12. says:

    Thanks for sharing this Kevin. I like your attitude to this. Those of us who can hear see and speak really do not understand and appreciate what kind of adjustment has to be made to compensate for the loss of a primary faculty, however, there are several who have done so and moved on the become famous. I expect people ask you if you lead a “normal” life so one has to consider what “normal” is. At the end of the day, I would hazard that few people lead what might be regarded as a normal life. It is not just a matter of not being able to see or hear or speak. Sometimes our lives are very much affected by outside influences, such as caring for an ailing parent, or having a child with learning disabilities. So, I guess where this “ramble” is leading is to underline the point you made. You really are no less than anyone else; in fact your disability has forced you to focus on your other attributes and you are quite satisfied that you have achieved as much if not more than some others. This makes you a definite “Winner” in my book.

  13. Craig says:

    Thank you Spook – My very brave warrior friend!

  14. Fiona says:

    Very interesting as always!

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