Jane’s fundraising journey started four years ago, in 2009. “That year was a real turning point in my life,” she says. “I had just had one of those big birthdays and it hit me that I still hadn’t got round to doing many of the things on my mental list of ‘Things I want to do before I die.’ I volunteered to take part in a fundraising walk along the Great Wall of China for the then RNID (Royal National Institute for the Deaf, now Action on Hearing Loss).
Jane, who has a bilateral sensorineural hearing loss, was first diagnosed with a hearing impairment at the age of 10. “The exact cause of my hearing loss has never been completely determined,” she says. “But it is thought to have resulted from complications arising after contracting measles when I was nine.
“Getting Widex aids was a life-changing event,” says Jane. “It helped me regain some of my confidence that had been eroded over the years by my hearing loss and the unsatisfactory analogue aids that I had struggled to wear.”
She adds: “‘I found that I was able to enjoy a more varied social life and was more self-assured at work.” Although she initially trained as a teacher at university, Jane joined the Civil Service in 2006 and works for the Identity and Passport Service, which is part of the Home Office. How does her hearing impairment affect her day job?
“Along with being partially deaf comes a whole host of problems in the workplace,” she says, “such as difficulties with the acoustics in large meeting rooms, using the phone, hearing briefing sessions or Tannoy announcements whilst on the noisy office floor, coping with interference to my hearing aids from electrical equipment or loud machinery and overcoming people’s misconceptions that I am aloof or worse still, a bit slow on the uptake.
She says: “My Widex aids mean that I am better able to take part in conversations, do something else at the same time as listening to someone speak, not suffer from headaches, and generally, just to play a more fulfilling part in the hearing world.”
Has her hearing impairment affected the challenges she takes on? Jane says: “I know that without my Widex aids I would probably not have had the confidence to undertake the Great Wall of China Trek. I didn’t know any of the other participants or the trek leaders and was concerned about how well I would be able to hear them. I would also be travelling alone for a considerable part of the journey, and announcements on trains, for example, are not always discernible. But I found the confidence to do it all anyway, and even extended my stay in China for an extra five days so that I could do some sightseeing!
“Wearing my aids makes me more confident about taking on challenges and talking to people during fundraising events,” she smiles.
For further information about Durham Deafened Support, please visit www.ddsupport.org.uk
To find out more about Action on Hearing Loss, go to www.actiononhearingloss.org.uk