The BBC is a respected platform reaching out to millions of people worldwide, now, one presenter is using this platform to shine a spotlight on tinnitus and sudden hearing loss.
Adjusting to sudden hearing loss is a lot to comprehend, even more so when you are chief news presenter for BBC World News.
Alongside adapting to sudden hearing loss, anchor Lewis Vaughan Jones is using the World News to diminish the stigma that follows the D/ deaf/HoH community.
“It was a bit of a shock, obviously, to have to suddenly be wearing a hearing aid, but I never felt any embarrassment. But, I completely understand how people can feel that way,” Lewis explains.
“I was surprised about the level of stigma there still is around wearing a hearing aid. There is no real reason, people wear glasses, but I always felt quite matter of fact about [wearing a hearing aid].”
Documenting his journey with sudden hearing loss, which Lewis experienced after a cold leaving his left ear completely without sound, on social media, Lewis saw the opportunity to change perceptions and knowledge around hearing.
“People were getting in touch with me about how they felt embarrassed wearing a hearing aid when they were young. I found that really interesting,” continues Lewis.
“I thought there was something slightly empowering about wearing a hearing aid on TV and being able to highlight it and not hide from it.”
Lewis is now trialling a bone conduction hearing aid, which he has worn whilst presenting the news and also when sending private messages to children and young people with hearing loss.
“It has been gorgeous to try and normalise wearing hearing aids and wearing different types of hearing aids,” adds Lewis. “That visibility is very important for the normalisation process of people having different devices sticking out of their heads in different ways, it’s all fine and normal.”
But, alongside raising awareness of hearing loss, Lewis has had to come to terms with the fact his hearing loss and tinnitus is permanent. “Losing the hearing I, strangely, wasn’t that bothered it was the tinnitus that was the biggest issue,” remembers Lewis.
“At the beginning, lying at night with my head on the pillow, with the tinnitus I just thought I can’t, cannot carry on with this – how do people carry on with this? There is something so traumatic about your own brain doing it to yourself. This noise in your head is created by your own brain, and I couldn’t imagine coping.”
After concerns he wouldn’t be able to work in television again. I thought I couldn’t carry on reading the news; that was utterly terrifying. “Reading the news is the only thing I can do, and I tell you, there is nothing more humbling than realising that I can’t do anything else in life.
“Thankfully, the BBC tech guys were amazing and they worked out a technical solution for me, which is relatively simple but makes a huge difference.
However, realising that hearing loss impacts large gatherings, as a big rugby fan, has been challenging.
Lewis says: “I was warned, at that stage, that people start going into themselves when you can’t engage with people around you on a normal playing field like everyone else and you withdraw.
“That’s exactly what I started to do, not going out, couldn’t be bothered going to the pub because I couldn’t hear anywhere.
“I realised that this is for life and this is part in parcel of it.”
Going to classes to learn how to lip read or trying to learn British Sign Language, Lewis is using this chapter in his life to be open and share that hearing loss is nothing to be ashamed of.