Heather’s Story

I was born in May 1993 on a British Military Base in Germany with Bilateral Microtia. Doctors informed my mum that there was a high chance I would never walk or talk due to my disability. Soon after I was born we returned to Cambridgeshire where I was under the care of Mr Roger Gray at Addenbrookes Hospital. Not long after this, at six weeks old, I was given a Bone Anchored Hearing Aid (BAHA) on softband which allowed me to hear the world around me for the first time. Around the age of four I had surgery which allowed me to have a permanent BAHA on both sides. Without the BAHA’s and Mr Roger Gray’s determination to give me one at such a young age I would not be where I am today.

I am now twenty one years old and I’m completing my final year studying English Literature and Education Studies at York St John University. I’ve proved the doctors who told my mum I would not walk or talk very wrong. I am about to embark on writing my dissertation on the experiences of deaf students in higher education, as well as applying to do a Primary PGCE course which will allow me to fulfil my dream of becoming a primary school teacher. In the future I hope to inspire children to achieve their goals and dreams, no matter how small they may be and to help them to achieve their potential, breaking the barriers that the world may present.

There have been many ups and downs over the years and it took me a long time to get used to being different to other children. However, now I would not change my ‘little ears’ for the world. There has always been the option of reconstructive surgery to give me ears like those of other people but as they would be merely cosmetic and due to the fact I am happy with my ‘little ears’, for me personally, I don’t think it is necessary.

Until recently, I was not aware of there being many individuals like me. I didn’t have a great deal of support from outside agencies throughout school and only attended the hospital when necessary. Through the Facebook group Microtia Mingle and the Microtia charity, I have begun to connect with others like me and their families throughout the UK and across many other countries. This is a great tool for parents of children with Microtia and adults themselves. The site allows for questions to be asked, scared new parents to be reassured that their children will grow up just like any other and support to be given to anyone who needs it.

Microtia, as I have found growing up, tends to be a niche area of knowledge and we need to learn that it’s okay if others don’t know about it. Too many times have I been to the doctors and they get out their ear thermometers to take my temperature. When I was younger, I would be embarrassed and find it intimidating. Now I confront the problem head on and tell them they can’t use that instrument, explain my Microtia and my hearing aids to help them find a new way of dealing with the problem. At the end of it all, most adults and children will find it fascinating as it stimulates that sense of natural curiosity that most of us possess about the world and life in general. I encourage people to ask me questions about it so that they can be educated as to the differences everyone has. It’s something to embrace but it definitely has its downfalls too; specialist knowledge means long hospital trips for breakages, expensive equipment and limited funding. Also, while BAHAs give me great hearing it is non-directional and I still have some difficulties in loud environments despite the advancements made in aids and technology.

That being said, like most things in life, as long as we take charge of our differences and are aware of some the barriers we may face, then there is nothing in this world that should stop anyone from achieving their own aspirations and living life to the fullest, regardless of whether they have Microtia or not. I also recognise that I am very privileged to have had the access to BAHA’s and other resources from such a young age – as well as having had incredible support and encouragement from my family (mainly my mum) to be able to give this perspective on life with Microtia.