Deaf Life22nd February 2015

To Be, Or Not To be – Deaf

Reflecting on his own deafness, Tony Stoyles now embraces being deaf

by Tony Stoyles, Chairman - England Deaf Rugby Union

Deafness - A reflection on my own experience.

I have moderate deafness, surprisingly, I have never considered myself as being deaf. I believe it is for reasons I had never been exposed to the Deaf communities. I also believe it is due to having very supportive parents and supportive friends, all of whom have encouraged me to lead my life as normal, whatever ‘normal’ is…although at times I did use the ‘selective deafness’ at times to my advantage, especially during my school days!

Without a doubt there were challenges growing up as a child, through to the teenage years, those difficult years! …it was attracting the girls that was a huge barrier for me, as I was very conscious of my hearing aid, and did not want to be considered as ‘disabled’ or ‘different’.

During the early years of my education, my local village primary school only had 16 children attending, and there were two teachers at the school, who were sisters and lived in the School House. I owe my early years education and well-being to those wonderful ladies. They gave me the best support ever and they arranged a Speech therapist who visited me twice a week at the school. He was just fantastic, as I learnt to lip-read better and pronounce most words, even difficult words, apart from the word; ‘extinguisher’…my hearing wife and daughter have great pleasure in teasing me to say the word, as I just cannot get it, they laugh so hard when I attempt to say it that in the end I say, ‘Fire Hose’ thingy!…believe me, wives & children can be evil!

I even remember my Speech therapist’s name, Mr Abbott! …Without a doubt, I have very fond memories during those days…all thanks to the Green sisters & Mr Abbott!

My early deaf encounter, was in my early teens, when I remember watching a rugby match. On the pitch was a rugby player who played for London Welsh and he was Deaf and I was totally fascinated and saddened by this, as I asked myself, how did he manage to play the game without hearing the referee? How was he able to communicate? I actually felt really sorry for him, seeing that he was Deaf… ‘I wondered what it’s like to be Deaf, how terrible it must be…’ and much to my surprise, his team mates were fantastic.

They were all signing and tapping him to get his attention, it was just an amazing moment for me. Suddenly, I realised all the questions I was asking were related to me. Then I thought, there is not a problem being deaf and just because you have a hearing impairment, either hard of hearing or profoundly Deaf, there is every reason to carry on in life as a normal person. It is a little alarming to say, ‘to be normal’…but in fact it gave me immense confidence and a real purpose to prove myself as a person and a sportsman.

Funny though, I used to keep my hair long to hide my hearing aid and was almost labeled as a hippy! Eventually, after a few years of moans ’n’ groans from my mother, with her disapproval of my long hair, I was encouraged by my hair-stylist to have my hair short as it would be easier for me on the rugby field, especially playing in the front row. It was a nightmare with long hair, unlike the characters you see on the pitches today, I must have set the trend years ago…not sure how they cope with all that hair!

Would I now consider myself as Deaf?…Yes, of course I would and I am proud of it. Maybe that is due to understanding the deaf communities better, and having had some exposure to HoH & Deaf communities and sports people throughout my years as a England Deaf player, Director of Rugby and now Chairman of England Deaf Rugby Union.

In my opinion, sport offers a great deal of opportunities for hearing & deaf people of all ages and ability, whether they are players or new starters, there is always room for volunteers in all sports and I am humbled to be involved with such a national deaf sports organisation as England Deaf Rugby Union.

Article by Tony Stoyles, Chairman - England Deaf Rugby Union

posted in Community / Deaf Life

22nd February 2015