At the end of my work and networking trip to the other side of the world, Mum and I decided on a a trip to the beautiful island of Bali to spend the last 10 days relaxing.
Arriving in Bali was surreal, it was dark outside, I hate arriving anywhere in the dark as I see so little.
We were very tired and our body clocks were already extremely confused! We were met with intense humidity whilst looking for our taxi service.
At Denpesar Airport we were met by a sweet Balinese gentlemen dressed in traditional Bali attire.
I felt quite important when Mum pointed out this man who was stood waiting for us holding a banner with our names on it. This lovely man spoke perfect English and without much of an accent so I was able to understand him quite easily, accents can be a problem for the deaf, thankfully for me, not this time.
The hour drive to Ubud for me was exhausting, it was really dark so I could not appreciate Bali's ornate beauty. What I could see was darkness amongst blurred street lights the lights hurt my eyes. It was incredibly disorientated amd quick sick so I put on my dark glasses turning my focus to communicating with the gent and his colleague the driver taking us to our destination, thankfully with no communication barrier it was pleasant interacting and finding out more about Balinese culture.
On arriving another surreal experience, I was guided by my Mum up some large steps, the lighting was low and I could hear water fountains, both left and right of the rugged steps but I couldn't see them in the dim light. I stopped on the steps holding onto my Mum’s arm, I had not experienced the still yet peaceful sound of water flowing before - I have to admit I felt quite emotional and incredibly lucky to have hearing aids to provide me with such beauty I couldn't see, but my imagination filled in the gaps.
As we carried on up the steps I sensed we were “inside”.
However Mum informed me whilst we were at reception we were still actually outside. Mum gave me a quick audio description which helped me form a picture of serene beauty and tranquility in the middle of a jungle.
There was water all around us in the lobby/reception. I felt frustrated I couldn't see it all, but so grateful to hear the flowing water, to smell the natural smells, flowers, damp trees, the smell of the Balinese countryside and to hear new sounds, I’ll come back to those sounds, the real feeling of peacefulness.
At the reception we were once again greeted by more incredibly sweet welcoming Balinese staff.
After check in and a complimentary sweet fizzy drink (was not totally sure if it was alcoholic or not!) all my senses were truly tested!
Mum soon grabbed me and guided me back down the steps and to what I was told was a golf cart already loaded with our luggage. We were then escorted to our chalet, what service I thought!
On opening the wooden gate into our private chalet I could see a little light coming from within, I couldn't wait to get inside, get some better lighting and really see where I was.
WOW, I was not disappointed, we were shown around our chalet like VIPs, I felt incredibly humbled. The bed was draped in what looked like sheer sheets hanging from the ceiling, the floor was made of large man made concrete slabs, small tables were decorated beautifully with Balinese flowers. The whole decor was ornate and stunning. The bathtub was almost the size of my double bed at home, and then a door opened to what was our outdoor shower! Again everything beautifully decorated with flowers, plants and everything ornate. I was quite overwhelmed and still I could hear noises, noises I hadn't heard before!
I was really tired that night but I couldn't sleep, I never sleep with my hearing aids in but on this particular night I didn't want to take them out. I was enjoying hearing the sounds of the jungle, I knew I could hear birds outside and some running water but really couldn't decipher the other noises, I was fascinated by the sounds, it still amazes me that I can hear outside with my Linx2 smart aids, something I could never have done previously. I went 20 years thinking you only hear sounds in the same room as you!
I fell asleep for the first time ever wearing my hearing aids!
The following morning was an out of body experience! I woke to morning sunlight shining through the sheer drapes from the ceiling around the bed, fortunately the drapes stopped the bright glare of the sun so I wasn't blinded by the brightness.
I hadn't noticed how many large windows with blooming large leaves growing in and out of the chalet met with the primitively made roof in our ornate and beautiful chalet. It all felt incredibly natural, the outdoors reminded me we were in a jungle in Bali.
On opening the patio door, WOW, I couldn't quite get a grip!
Scanning around I noticed a pool, being overlooked by a Hindu God statue fountain, ahhhhh, that was one of the sounds I’d fallen asleep to. The statue was also decorated in beautiful natural Balinese flowers, two sun beds on a small decking adjacent to the pool, and then a straw roofed hut with two massage beds also decorated with flowers. On the patio was a huge chaise lounge, a sink a table with a large bowl of tropical fruit on top and four chairs what more could we need?
A trip to the spa I thought, that really would be paradise, so we booked for that evening.
I was desperate to see what I had missed the night before so Mum and I tested out the outdoor shower, quite an experience and again I was taken aback by the smells of the hand made shower gel, soaps and shampoo it really was something I'll always remember.
Dressed and ready we left our part of paradise and ventured up to the hotel reception area where the restaurant was to be found.
My Mum was chatting to me on the short walk but I wasn't listening, I was still fascinated by the sounds coming from all around me, I could definitely hear birds and definitely more than one kind, I could hear running water. I was trying to concentrate really hard on what I could hear. The sounds were all quite relaxing, I'd never experienced these particular sounds before.
Mum guided me to reception and this time I could see the ponds of water either side of the walkway and I could see huge fish and again fountains shaped like Hindu gods and decorated in tropical flowers. There were also burners that smelt tropical, it really was a feast of the senses.
The receptionist greeted us and offered us a local hot drink whilst we decided on treatments for later that day, finally I felt able to relax after a very long and busy couple of months.
We had a breakfast of fresh fruits and local produce then headed back to our private paradise to enjoy the sunshine and warmth of Ubud.
I was able to lay in the sunshine and unwind listening to the unique sounds of the jungle. My headache lifted and I felt good.
After a day of sheer relaxation and room service I was looking forward to some pampering.
On arriving at the spa we were offered drinks, haven't a clue what they were but they smelt of ginger but tasted of something else!
Two ladies showed us into the private room overlooking the jungle. Inside where two massage beds, the view was stunning.
It was amazing, the whole room overlooked the jungle, ornate frog statues were everywhere, beautiful flowers, I couldn't believe the colours, the smells and the sounds, sheer peace and tranquility.
Having been massaged with magic fingers and hands from head to toe, we were then covered in a seaweed wrap and then before long we were told to shower and then soak in the jumbo sized free standing bubble bathtub which was full of floating flowers with an aroma I'll never forget surrounded by candles it was truly heavenly.
After the masseuse's left mum and I looked at each other and smiled, a long time since we shared a bath! Fair to say we laughed.
'Where should I put my hearing aids Mum?'
I couldn't see anywhere safe to put them without losing them in the jungle or the water!
Mum took them and put them on a shelf near the towels.
After our glorious soak in the huge bath overlooking Bali's outstanding nature, I remember feeling happy that it was still light outside so I could appreciate my surroundings even though it was in silence, it was absolutely stunning.
Getting out of the bath we felt completely fresh and relaxed.
The warmth on our skin dried us in no time, though being wrapped in a towel was somewhat refreshing.
We sat quietly in rocking chairs looking out watching the sunset and darkness descend upon us before getting dressed.
‘I need my hearing aids mum’ Mum's glowing face frowned, she couldn't see them, I was of no help in fading light so sat still and safe whilst Mum searched and then the horror, surely they have not fallen into the giant bath of scented flowers and bubbles!
Mum put her hands in the deep water and horrified she fished out one hearing aid, followed by a second we were both speechless
My mind was racing, 9 days without hearing, 9 days to not appreciate the beauty my hearing aids provide me, the unique and new sounds of this beautiful place and the everyday things like conversation, chatting with my Mum, conversing with the locals, communicating, there'd be none of that accept on those rare occasions when my sight is at it’s best and I can lipread. My mind was racing. I felt physically sick the thought of being blind and not being able to hear filled me with horror, how would I cope.
Mum was speechless, in shock, she knew 9 days without me being able to hear would be tough on us both and would definitely have spoilt our holiday.
Mum insisted I take the batteries out and throw them away. We got dressed in record time.
Mum wrapped my hearing aids tightly in a tissue and put them in her purse.
The walk back to our chalet was in silence. I hung on tightly to Mum’s arm, I felt very disorientated in silence and darkness and felt very vulnerable.
As soon as we got into the chalet Mum unraveled the now drier hearing aids and placed them in a cup while Mum found the hairdryer going on to use it aiming its heat into the cup for 15/20 minutes, it felt like a lifetime after which she asked me for new hearing aid batteries, neither of us felt very positive but it was the only hope we had.
I took the first hearing aid, fitted it in my ear and switched on and there it was the short signal sounds to say it was on and it worked, I was beyond happy, I felt elated. One working will be better than none I thought as I reached for the second hearing aid, put the battery in and again those switch on sounds and hearing aid two on and working WOW, I was so overwhelmed I was tearful - these tiny hearing aids are a huge part of what makes me tick.
I didn't want to switch my hearing aids off again that night, not only was I afraid they may not come back on but I wanted to continue to enjoy the sounds of paradise.
Thankfully my hearing aids did not let me down and continue to work and I appreciate them more than ever.
The following day we talked a lot about the sounds of Bali and that one sound I kept hearing but couldn't identify.
sat at the bar after a tropical shower I asked Mum and the barman what the strange, louder than normal noise was ‘ah’ said the barman, ‘that is the noise of the frogs, they are always noisy at night and even noisier when it rains!’
I was wide eyed, anybody who knows me knows I have a bit of a thing for frogs and yet I had never heard a frog before!
How I love the sound of frogs.
That hour or so of shock was a reminder to me just how important hearing is to me and why others like myself should have the opportunity to use such impressive technology, it really is life changing.
There is no doubt in my mind, if my hearing aids had not worked after the accident at the spa without a doubt I would have struggled, my holiday would have been ruined and my confidence destroyed.
Hearing is my access to people and without people and sight I fall into isolation how obvious that became that day in paradise.
I have written and spoken extensively about my GN Resound Linx2 smart hearing these aids over the last 20 months and what they have given me but that day in Bali, the fear I felt at not benefitting from hearing made me very aware that praise I have given them is little compared to what they give me every single time I switch them on.
NB I would not recommend having your hearing aids anywhere near water or where they could be damaged but am thankful my pair stood that terrifying ordeal.
I recently read about somebody I know who has Usher Syndrome and had got into a very scary situation.
Having Usher Syndrome this sort of thing is very easily done.
An accident as simple as getting on the wrong bus in the dark, being put off the bus with directions to safety but you didn't understand the directions and finding yourself all alone in the dark bearing in mind you are completely blind in the dark, terrifying.
Being deafblind is often very disorientating at the best of times and lots of us experience dizzy spells or vertigo, often seems part and parcel of the condition and being lost or feeling lost adds to the anxiety lots of us can feel when out and about particularly in unfamiliar areas.
Similar happened to me before I had guide dog Unis and I was petrified, fortunately for me I had my cane, must have looked lost and was helped to a bus stop and onto the correct bus home. To say it knocked my confidence was an understatement, I didn't attempt to go out alone for several months, isolating myself rather than face the possibility of getting lost again.
The day that happened to me I did not have a smartphone or the technology I am lucky enough to enjoy today I just did my best with what I had.
I am pretty confident today and I know that confidence and independence come from incredible technology and of course Guide dog Unis who has saved my life on more than one occasion as back then I struggled to see or hear traffic even with my old hearing aids.
I have blogged about my new hearing aids Linx2 but after four months of this incredible technology along with iPhone and Applewatch I can say my safety and feelings of vulnerability have improved substantially.
Now when I am out and about with Unis I have the ability to change my hearing aid settings to block out certain sounds so that I can not only hear traffic but I can identify the direction of the sound, something I have never ever been able to do so now I see so little I can have trust in my hearing even though I'm deaf and I hear nothing much without hearing aids - get this, "My deaf ears compensate for my dodgy eyes!"
I am now 21 years old and in four months I've learnt so much more about sound than I ever knew.
I hear sounds I've never heard, I've corrected my own speech, things I've said wrongly for years simply because I couldn't hear the sounds properly, I've "overheard" conversations, a really new concept for me, I can speak and hear well in small groups, I hear so much more its hard for me to explain its just quite an "Eyeopener and I'm blind!"
My confidence in my own hearing has improved my vocabulary, yes, even at 21 I'm learning new vocabulary, I'm not mishearing which was often my biggest frustration.
This last week I did something I never thought I'd be capable of doing without help - I took my first ever conference call yes, not Skype, not FaceTime I totally relied on technology to hear and this is how:
The ReSound Linx2 connect to both my iPhone and my apple watch via bluetooth. When the call comes in I can answer via my watch, clear speech goes directly into my ears, no background noise or interference.
I cannot describe my elation at being able to access a three way conversation, to hear clearly two unfamiliar voices and to make plans for an upcoming event.
I'm sure lots of people are thinking it's no big deal but it really is because using a telephone is something most take for granted and yet people with with Usher Syndrome who use hearing aids often cannot and as a result struggle, particularly in the workplace and yet it's possible if only this up to date technology was available to them.
To have these "Smart Aids" (the first to be fully compatible with the applewatch) the watch and an iPhone work out to be very expensive, however when considering what this kit enables a person to do it makes complete sense in my opinion.
I feel very humbled to have access to this technology, it absolutely makes me me.
I am not a tech expert, an expert of Usher Syndrome or anything else for that matter but knowing that this sort of technology exists and what it can do to enhance the lives of those with such challenges it has to be viable.
Speaking about Siri I have noticed it is by far better on my Applewatch than on my iPhone, I'm curious to know if it will improve on iPhone with the new operating system, either way I will continue to use Siri on my watch so I have the security of leaving my phone out of view and safe while I am out and about with Unis.
I'm still a huge fan of taptics but am now finding Siri so useful, when Siri talks to me the sound goes straight into my ears so I hear clearly thanks to these amazing Linx2 hearing aids and if Siri cannot help then there's almost certainly an app that will do so.
It's great to have so much independence via technology that I can access so easily.
I was asked if Siri understands "deaf voices" well, it understands mine is all I can say.
I'm also looking forward to understanding what "native apps" work on the new operating system for Apple watch and just out of curiosity to see if there is any safety element there.
Along with the excitement of so much new assistive technology available comes the frustration of knowing so many people who would benefit won't because they cannot afford it.
There is so much advancement in technology surely funding the right equipment as opposed to the cheapest equipment makes absolute sense.