Talking to my family, my existing customers and potential clients is such a wonderful gift.
Matthew Blackwell, a blacksmith from Ottery St Mary in Devon, has been deaf since birth.
The 30-year-old has faced countless struggles throughout his life. Noisy environments were one of his biggest challenges.
“I’ve relied heavily on lip-reading all my life,” he says. “I found it hardest when people didn’t look at me when they spoke.”
It [hearing loss] made me feel really isolated, I would miss out on conversations, I wouldn’t know what was going on; I often felt left out.
Matthew’s hearing loss also affected his professional life, once even misunderstanding a customer’s order. “He asked for his fire grate to look the same as the previous one; I misheard and made the wrong order. I created something completely different!”
He was sometimes late for work (before becoming self-employed) since he couldn’t hear his alarm clock, and admitted one of his greatest fears was getting trapped in a fire since he wouldn’t be able to hear the fire alarm.
But the attraction of better hearing and advances in hearing aid technology convinced Matthew to get his ears tested.
I have always struggled with being able to hear music; [this technology] has made listening to music a pleasure and so easy.
Matthew received his hearing aids just before Christmas. With the COVID restrictions, they made a world of difference to him. “I was able to hear so clearly and join in with conversations that would have been hard to hear through Christmas music, with scarfs being used I had to rely on what I heard and less on lip-reading.”
The hearing aids also gave him the chance to visit Exeter Cathedral for Midnight Mass. It’s easy for sounds to get lost in such a vast space, but Matthew was able to “hear everything the ministers were saying and the choir singing clearly”.
The advance in hearing aid technology has also impressed Matthew.