Since having my first born six years ago I noticed I was struggling to hear. Things would sound unclear, I'd struggle to hear people who weren't right in front of me and I noticed I was more than often saying the word 'what?'.
It wasn't until one day sitting in my mum's conservatory my mum said, 'Listen to that lovely Robin chirping away' ... I tried, boy did I try, but I realised I couldn't. I couldn't hear it, I couldn't hear what everyone else was listening to. How many other sounds was I missing out on?
It's been a terrible process for me, mainly through embarrassment. Foolishly being embarrassed of not wanting to be seen in the hearing centre, not at 34, not where everyone knows me. But I did it, I walked through the doors, had the hearing test and now live my life as a mum of two with hearing aids because of a 56% hearing loss.
I remember being in tears when I first wore my hearing aids, tears of amazement of how much I'd been missing out on. I could hear bags rustling as people walked past me with their shopping, other people's conversations who were sitting on another table in the restaurant and realised that I'd had the TV so loud I'm surprised the whole street didn't know what I was watching.
How have I been coping all this time without them? No wonder my husband used to say I stared at people with a frowned face and bumped into people in the supermarket. This wasn't because I was an angry person or because I was useless at 'checking my mirrors' as my husband put it, it was because I couldn't hear.
Today I am still very embarrassed of my hearing loss when I know I shouldn't be. I rarely wear my hair up in front of people that don't know and only a few close friends and family share my secret. My children on the other hand are very aware of it and I don't hide it from them at all. They accept me as mum and we laugh when I can't hear them when I haven't got them in. I'm sure they all say silly things behind my back. My six year old son finds himself repeating conversations to me that I've missed from the teacher or from other parents on the playground. Sometimes we laugh when we get in the car and I say 'I have no idea what they just said'. Other times my son will say, 'Mum, have you even got your hearing aids in today?, because I've miss heard his question and replied with an off the wall answer.
When I'm with my family in a busy shopping centre or by a noisy road I still can't pick out the clarity of what they are trying to tell me, everything can seem distorted and leaves me feeling frustrated, especially as us parents rely on daily communication with our children. I avoid taking my children swimming because of having to take them out, leaving me in a silent world of chaos and feeling vulnerable not having control in such a demanding environment. The busy children's park becomes difficult to distinguish between 30 children screaming with laughter as it turns into blur of white noise, (I'm sure I'm the mum standing with the frowned face thinking 'Are we ready to go yet?'). When my daughter was born I had concerns over not being able to hear her at night if I took them out to sleep, and when I asked my Health Visitor what advice she could give me she answered, 'I've never come across a deaf mother before, so I wouldn't know what to advise you?'. What at unsupportive comment from such a professional body.
My point Is that I'm not trying to say I have fully lost my hearing and I am classed as disabled but I am hard of hearing which is classed as a invisible disability and there is a difference. Yes, I wear and rely on hearing aids but this still doesn't mean that my hearing is fully corrected. They help, but things will never be 'normal'. Do I even know what 'normal' hearing is anymore? I must remind myself even after 4 years of wearing them that this is my adjusted life now and this is my new normal.
I work, I'm a mum and a wife of the most supportive husband who without I may still not be wearing them today. He has convinced me not to be ashamed or embarrassed and that they do not change the person I am. So, this is me being brave and finally admitting to everyone that I rely on hearing aids, because I'm exhausted from trying to hide them in fear of the stigma that surrounds them. That they are my life line and without them I wouldn't be able to hear my children say 'I love you mum'.
Not all disabilities are visible and others that are also dealing with hearing loss may be able to relate to my story. We should be supportive, not critical, understanding, not judgmental and encourage those who need that extra assistance to be confident enough to admit it and remember that we are still who we've always been on the inside.
HuffPost UK Lifestyle has launched EveryBody, a new section calling for better equality and inclusivity for people living with disability and invisible illness. The aim is to empower those whose voices are not always heard and redefine attitudes to identity, lifestyle and ability in 2017. We'll be covering all manner of lifestyle topics - from health and fitness to dating, sex and relationships.
We'd love to hear your stories. To blog for the section, please email firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line 'EveryBody'. To flag any issues that are close to your heart, please email email@example.com, again with the subject line 'EveryBody'.
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