THE search is on to find people in Wales who are hard-of-hearing and have triumphed over adversity.
Specsavers hearing centres across Wales have teamed with Wales Deaf Rugby captain, Gareth John, to urge local residents with hearing loss to enter the annual Sound Barrier Star Awards.
Specsavers’ Sound Barrier Star Awards is a UK-wide initiative aimed at celebrating achievement in people who are deaf or hard-of-hearing. It seeks to reward such individuals for their courage and accomplishments.
Gareth was born partially deaf, but with no routine tests being carried out on new-born babies at that time, his parents did not become aware of his hearing problems until he was around 12-months-old.
‘My father told me he will never forget the moment that showed there was a problem,’ says Gareth. ‘He dropped a tray with dishes, and as it crashed to the floor behind me there was no reaction.
‘It was from there that life changed for my family – years of tests, worrying and wondering followed. An operation for glue ear at around two years old gave the devastating diagnosis of permanent hearing loss. This was found to be due to some of the delicate hairs inside the cochlea – responsible for triggering nerve signals to the brain – being defective.
In school I can always remember being different. I felt so alone, like I was the only one with this disability. I can remember feeling angry, and thinking why me? No one else in my family or at school had this. The only thing that helped me through these early years was sport – it gave me confidence and helped me forget my differences.
‘I was determined not to let my deafness get in the way. Rugby allowed me to be myself, to show what I was capable of. Playing at Premiership level made me realise that my disability would never hold me back, that I was no different to the other players.
‘Being given this opportunity to front the Sound Barrier Star Awards and help people like myself is an honour. I want other deaf people to know that being hard-of-hearing does not have to define who you are, that you can achieve anything you set your mind to.’
Peter Render, chairman of Specsavers in Wales, adds: ‘We want to encourage people to come into our stores and enter themselves or someone they know into the awards. There are some brilliant stories of people with hearing loss and the Sound Barrier Star Awards gives a platform for these achievers to be recognised.’
For every entry Specsavers will donate £5 to the charity Hearing Dogs for Deaf People. Hearing dogs help transform the lives of deaf people by alerting them to sounds and allowing them greater independence.
Susannah Forkun, a Hearing Dogs for Deaf People representative, says: ‘The Sound Barrier Star Awards are a great way to shout about the hard of hearing’s achievements. If you are thinking about nominating someone, please do give them the recognition they deserve.’
The awards will recognise 10 regional finalists across the UK and five will be selected to attend the grand final at The Savile Club, London on 16 October 2013.
The Sound Barrier Star of 2013 will win a week long villa holiday for two people in the Mediterranean, including flights, courtesy of VillaParade. On top of this, they will also receive a £1,500 hearcare or £500 optic voucher from Specsavers.
Anyone can nominate themselves, a friend or family member to enter the Sound Barrier Star Awards by visiting Specsavers hearing centres and picking up a nomination form, or downloading a form online at www.specsavers.co.uk/hearing. The closing date for entries is 12 August 2013.
Find out more about the awards here