Brave mum Leona O’Neill suffered lasting hearing loss after battling cancer as a teenager and a severe ear infection as a baby. “I knew my ability to hear was damaged when I was a tiny tot, but I had not realised that chemotherapy can harm your hearing as well,” explains the 31-year old from Cookstown, Co Tyrone.
Fortunately, Leona got the all-clear from Hodgkin’s lymphoma and returned to school after her hospital treatment. But being a “cool 15-year-old” meant she refused to wear her NHS hearing aids.“They were huge, ugly brown things,” she recalls. “There was no way I wanted to use them. I was far too embarrassed.” Leona, a mum to five-year-old daughter Alexis, was also unhappy with the hearing aids she wore as an adult.
“My NHS ones kept falling out of my ears and they also had a horrible background noise — to be honest, I did not bother wearing them a lot of the time.” Leona’s life changed forever when she walked through the doors of Cookstown Hidden Hearing and was treated by audiologist Paul O’Hara. “He explained how my hearing had deteriorated after suffering cancer as a teenager,” says Leona. “I had not even realised how bad it had got.”
Leona knew it was time to visit Hidden Hearing and get her ears checked when her little girl had to shout to make herself heard. “People noticed that Alexis’ voice was very high pitched because I was always telling her to speak up, then she’d end up roaring at me!” Leona was “absolutely over the moon” when Paul told her that she’d been accepted for the Hidden Hearing Give Back programme. This allowed her to be fitted with state-of-the-art devices for free. “I cannot thank him enough. The hearing aids have improved my life so much. Not only can I have a normal conversation with my daughter, but I can even hear her playing in the next room.” She is also delighted with how discreet the devices are.
“Paul gave me black aids so they would blend in with my hair, that was so thoughtful of him. But they are so tiny I don’t think anyone would notice them anyway.” Leona’s advice to anyone struggling with their hearing is simple. “Do something about it. I wish I’d got these hearing aids years ago. I don’t know how I survived without them.”
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