This is Ally.
When I started this page, I really had no expectations as to what stories would come my way. I wanted to leave it open....to allow anyone who felt they identified with the concept of I am ME to come forward and share their truth.
Ally is from the USA and has lived in Dubai for just over a year. She is a qualified nurse, wife, and mother of 2 young children.
She is also deaf.
When Ally contacted me I was excited to find out that she is also my neighbour! Even from the moment I went to let her know I was coming I started to encounter a small idea of what it must be like to be in her shoes. I went to the door and rang her bell, and then thought "How is she going to know I've rung the bell?', then I think to myself "Oh, let me get her number, I'll give her a call!" only to realise a second later that this was not going to work.
Only seconds later, the gate opens and I am greeted by one of the most brilliant lights I have ever met. Truly.
We exchange hugs and I ask her "How did you hear the bell?" and she says "Oh, I have dogs!". As I learn very quickly from Ally, this is something that really makes her happy, when people are not afraid to ask questions and learn about her world.
So here is a little bit about what it's like to be in Ally's shoes.
What are the biggest challenges of being hard of hearing?
Not being able to hear my children cry. The other night my daughter fell over, I was brushing my teeth and I could not hear her and didn't realise she had hurt herself.
Sometimes it's hard to engage with other people as they don't know how to react or communicate with you when they realise you are not answering them because you can't hear them.
The hardest part about being deaf is being shut off from the rest of the world.
When I went through nursing school, there were a few people who were unsure of my abilities. Getting hired was challenging in the beginning as there was concern over my abilities to care for patients. I knew I could do it! I had to constantly prove that I could do the job in my own way. For example, I had a special stethoscope for people who are hard of hearing that helps me to do the job I need to do, but with different tools.
What are the biggest challenges of living in Dubai and being deaf?
The social aspect is much harder here. In a group situation it is difficult to follow conversations due to having to lipread and try to keep up with what people are talking about. I miss the social aspect of being around other people who are hard of hearing that can relate. Back in the US, they have events like the DPHH (Deaf Professionals Happy Hour) where everyone is in the same boat and like minded people can meet.
It can feel very isolated here as I have not yet met anyone else here who is deaf and understands what I am going through.
I also miss having Closed Caption TV.
What is your biggest gift Ally?
When people see what I have achieved (ie going to nursing school when I was told that I couldn't be a nurse) hopefully it gives them inspiration to follow their dreams.
My sister is also deaf, and growing up we were never allowed to use our hearing loss as an excuse to not go out and do something in the world.
I think that since I know what it feels like to be excluded, I try my best to make sure that I connect with people.
(I would like to add that Ally is one of the warmest people I have ever met. Her smile lights up the room and her energy is just incredible)
What would you like the world to know about your experience of being deaf?
Most people with hearing loss are very approachable. Please don't be afraid to ask about our hearing loss. There are other ways to communicate and to "hear".
What terms are correct when explaining your condition?
To use the words deaf, or hard of hearing is ok. Most people who are deaf don't like the term "hearing impaired" as it implies something is broken or not ok. Some people may even be surprised to understand that some people who are hard of hearing are actually very, very proud to be deaf.
Ally was quite keen for me to photograph an image showing her hearing aid as she wanted to raise awareness for those that may not have seen one or were afraid to ask.
If you know of anyone else in Dubai who is hard of hearing, please do let us know so we can connect them with Ally, and of course if you see her around Dubai, please do go and say hello!! She is one of the most radiant and beautiful people I have met!