Interview with Deaf Learner, Louise Goldsmith
Published: Jan 20th, 2016
Louise Goldsmith is a 20 year-old blogger and University student. She set up her blog, Deafness From My Eyes in early 2015 as a means of expressing her frustrations with her hearing loss and sharing her experiences with others. Although she has encountered challenges and difficulties in her everyday life as a young deaf person – particularly in higher education – Louise is striving to make a difference, and raise awareness of deafness through her blog, social media and charitable efforts.
In this interview we find out more about Louise and how she is coping in higher education, and how blogging has been a hugely important confidence booster.
Tell us what your condition, Bilateral Sensorneural hearing loss, means to you on a daily basis?
Where do you find the most support for coping with your hearing loss and the emotional affects it can have?
I feel like it’s is hard to find support because I don’t know anyone who has a hearing loss like me. I seek comfort from deaf organisations and on my Deaf Awareness Twitter page. When I have worries or questions I am able to communicate with others from around the world, who may be able to understand.
The main support for me has to be my lovely boyfriend Stephen and my close family, especially my amazing Mum! My grandparents who I am close to are brilliant also. Recently I went through a lot of stress with my hearing aids not working properly and they took me up to the hospital as my Mum was at work. My nan, who has an eye condition that makes it difficult for her to see, understands how frustrating it is having lost a vital sense, so we joke about it and say: “you do the seeing and I’ll do the hearing!”
Everyone close to me has been brilliant; they are always on hand to listen and give me a cuddle to cheer me up. My hearing boyfriend has had a lot to put up with this year, but he has handled it so well, if I’m anxious or stressed he will always reassure me to make me feel better.
Tell us about your blog and why you decided to set it up?
It all started one day when I opened Wordpad on my laptop and started writing a diary about my hearing and how I was feeling at the time. I have to get things off my chest either by talking or writing/typing. I felt frustrated at the time that I was not able to talk about my problems with someone who had a similar loss. My family were on hand to listen, but I felt like no one really understood me.
I set up my Twitter page in hope to find some people like myself and begun following deaf-related pages, and to my amazement, my followers have increased since then! I then felt like I was making a difference and grabbing the attention of people with similar interests and experiences of deafness.
I want to use all of my energy from my frustrations to help raise deaf awareness. My personalised deaf blog is unique, and hopefully interesting for people to learn how deaf people feel in a bad or good situation. I think it’s a great way to educate people. Facts alone are not enough to raise deaf awareness; I think people need to understand what it is like in our shoes and how stressful it can be. The aim of my blog is not only to raise deaf awareness, but for people to be more open minded in future.
What do you think the biggest misconception is about deafness and young deaf/HoH people?
The word ‘deaf’ freaks most people out! Usually when I tell someone I’m deaf and wear hearing aids, I can see them silently freaking out. They stiffen up and assume I cannot hear anything. No I cannot hear without my hearing aids, hence why I have them to help me! A lot of people are shocked when I tell them I wear hearing aids and have a profound loss. They say: “Wow, you don’t look deaf at all.” This baffles me: are deaf people supposed to look a certain way? It’s a hidden disability, and I find people can be narrow minded due to lack of understanding.
What do you think is the biggest challenge for you as a deaf/HoH student at University?
The whole thing [starting University] freaked me out. But my confidence has grown massively since I left high school. I’ve gained the confidence to fight for my needs and rights, and have made sure the Uni teaching staff know how to help me.
Educating other people is my biggest problem. I’m quite independent, but I’ve struggled to form relationships with most people in my class, especially as people feel awkward about my hearing. Although there are a small group of girls who I recently sat with this year and they are lovely.
The academic side can be hard for me, because it is vital that I understand and take-in everything. However, I do have a note taker to help with this; she is a Godsend!
Do you think more needs to be done in higher education institutions to support and provide for deaf and HoH students?
Definitely! I have been asked to deliver a talk to staff about my experiences to educate them if they ever have to support a deaf student. My parents and I agree that there should be a specialist deaf support professional who can visit deaf students in Uni to ensure their needs are met. I don’t think support staff are enough. My teacher of the deaf, Sheila is great. She is so passionate about her job and fights for my rights. I wouldn’t have got this far without her.
What advice would you give young deaf people who are struggling with their hearing loss/deafness?
I think blogging helps massively if you are a person who likes to get things out in the open. I also recommend a counsellor who specialises in disabilities if you are really struggling. Connecting with the deaf community is helpful and makes you feel less alone. Twitter is a great way of getting involved. I’ve also volunteered with deaf organisations to help others and make a difference, as well as meet new people. Taking part in my first fundraising event was one of the best feelings ever! I felt part of something and being surrounded by people who smiled at me and congratulated me, I could be myself and not be ashamed or pretend to be something I’m not. It has improved my confidence massively!
Ultimately, it’s important for deaf and HoH individuals to remember we are capable of anything! If you’re interested in higher education but are having doubts because of your deafness, don’t let it stop you! You can do anything, and if you are brave enough to make a decision, you are brave enough to discuss your needs to ensure that you follow that dream!
Finally, where would you like to see yourself in 5 years time?
I’m hoping, above all, that I will have completed my degree, but my main ambition in life is to help others with a hearing loss – particularly in education as this has been a major issue for me. Our school life is extremely important as it sets us up for a future. Missing out on things at school has a massive impact, and I know this more than anyone.
Ultimately there needs to be more awareness raised in schools. Any deaf child is capable of anything! The teaching methods need to be reconsidered and teachers need educating. Not all hearing impaired people are the same as we have different needs. I hope to educate others to become more deaf aware, not only to improve communication, but to tackle issues such as bullying and discrimination.
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