What Andrew and Patrick have in common with Martin and Peter

Andrew Thompson, from Derry who is profoundly deaf joins the First and Deputy First Minister at the opening of their new offices in Belfast. Mandatory Credit - Photo-Kelvin Boyes/Presseye
Andrew Thompson, from Derry who is profoundly deaf joins the First and Deputy First Minister at the opening of their new offices in Belfast. Mandatory Credit - Photo-Kelvin Boyes/Presseye

Two local men have spoken to Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness about their profound hearing difficulties - with the Derry man making a frank admission of his own.

Mr. McGuinness has spoken of how he has had tinnitus – a constant ringing in the ear – for the last ten years.

He spoke to Strabane’s Patrick McGranaghan and Derry’s Andrew Thompson at the opening of a new base for UK charity Action on Hearing Loss in Belfast.

A large team of volunteers with the charity are on hand to offer support and information to people with hearing loss.

They can also help hearing aid users get the best out of their hearing aids, and can match isolated people in the area with experienced ‘befrienders’.

Patrick McGranaghan is one local man who has benefitted from the charity’s services and now volunteers to help others in similar situations.

Patrick McGranaghan started to notice his hearing deteriorating in his mid-50s. He was missing out on conversations, mishearing things, and turning the TV up louder and louder.

After two years he decided to take action to address his hearing loss. He was told by his audiologist that the hearing in one ear was deteriorating, and this worsened rapidly over the course of the next year, and he began to lose his hearing in the other ear.

Patrick was fitted with a hearing aid which led to him hearing a very loud and disturbing noise. Having seen an Action on Hearing Loss hearing aid support clinic advertised in his local area, he went along for help. The trained volunteer there explained that the loud noise was simply the reintroduction of all the sound that Patrick had missed out on over the years, and that with time and perseverance it would becoming less intrusive.

The support he received at the clinic inspired him to volunteer his services to Action on Hearing Loss and he now runs his own hearing support clinic at Carnhill Resource Centre in the Pennyburn area of Derry. “Getting a hearing aid and then volunteering has made such difference to my life. I would encourage anyone who is noticing their hearing declining to do something about it sooner rather than later.”

Andrew Thompson (40) has been profoundly deaf from birth. He was raised in the ‘oral’ tradition i.e. he has learnt to speak, but picked up sign language as a teenager and feels more relaxed and confident communicating in sign. Support from his family growing up has made him the person he is today but he has experienced negative attitudes in the workplace.

Andrew has an advanced qualification in plastering and a specialism in Health and Safety, however, he feels that a potential career move to become a supervisor was blocked because he was deaf. He also feels that his recommendations on matters of Health and Safety were ignored because he was deaf.

Since becoming involved with Action on Hearing Loss, Andrew has been able to explore his first love of drama and performance. He is part of an Improvisation Performance group based in Derry and he says, “the group brings deaf people together on a par with hearing people and I love it.”

During the opening of the new base Peter Robinson First Minister revealed for the first time how he has experienced hearing loss in his left ear for the last two years - something he has never spoken of publicly before. Mr. McGuinness spoke of how he has had tinnitus – a constant ringing in the ear – for the last 10 years.

Northern Ireland Director for Action on Hearing Loss Jackie White said that she was moved by how both Ministers spoke about their personal experiences so openly.

“Both Ministers are living out our vision of a world where deafness and hearing loss doesn’t limit or label people. We want everyone in Northern Ireland who is experiencing hearing loss to be able to live as normal a life as possible with the appropriate and timely information and support. Given the fact that it takes an average of ten years for people act upon hearing loss, we would like to join with the First and Deputy First Minister in urging everyone look after their hearing and to take steps to address any loss you may have.”

For further information on Action on Hearing Loss services contact: Harvester House, 4-8 Adelaide Street, Belfast. Tel: 028 9023 9619, Textphone: 028 9024 9462, Fax: 028 9031 2032 or email: information.nireland@hearingloss.org.uk