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Increasing visibility in support of Deaf Awareness Week 2023

Deaf Awareness Week takes place from 1st – 7th May 2023 and aims to bring to light the barriers that people who are deaf and hard of hearing face, while promoting the importance of social inclusion for the deaf community.

As a company, we are committed to promoting equality of opportunity amongst our workforce, ensuring that all employees across our teams feel supported and empowered in the workplace. For one member of the McCann team, Naomi Caunce, this support has been found through a four-legged friend and much-loved addition to our in-house team, Wren the hearing dog. 

Naomi has suffered from profound deafness for much of her life, which has only continued to deteriorate over the years. After sadly being forced to give up her career in music in her 30s due to her hearing, she found herself re-training in administration and IT and secured work experience with Calderdale Council for nine months alongside McCann. 

Since then she has worked amongst the McCann team, and after much deliberation she made the decision to pursue the idea of having a hearing dog to support her in her everyday life. With the addition of Wren, she has been able to regain her independence and improve her quality of life significantly.

To understand more about what it’s like to live with hearing loss, as well as the challenges which she has had to overcome on a daily basis, we sat down with Naomi to hear her story.

What would you say being deaf or hard of hearing means to you?

At the beginning, I experienced a lot of situations which made it difficult to embrace my deafness. Suffering from hearing loss means that you can struggle in loud surroundings, so you can feel very left out of conversations and I found myself apologising to people for not hearing what they had said.

People can then underestimate your intelligence because you have a hearing disability, or at least this is how I have been made to feel in the past. I struggled a lot with being bullied because of my disability, and this really affected my confidence. Now, I feel a lot more comfortable and self-assured, so you won’t find me apologising for my deafness anymore!

What do you feel is the biggest challenge that you’ve had to overcome, and how did you overcome it?

I would say the biggest challenge was when I had to make the decision to give up my career as a freelance orchestral musician. I would be telling porky pies if I said I don’t miss it! Knowing that I will never pick up a violin again is tough. You never get over something like this, but you learn to live with it. 

I lost most of my hearing in my late thirties-early forties, but seven years ago I received a cochlear implant and it has made such a difference to my life. 

Like many people with disabilities, it can be hard to find full-time employment. It took me five years. At times it was demoralising having to walk into the local job centre because I often felt like I was being spoken down to by some of the job advisors. It felt like they didn’t always appreciate the fact that I was trying to find employment. 

My break finally came when I gained work experience through ‘Works Better’ – based in Calderdale – with the local council. I then moved into full-time employment with McCann, who have given myself and my hearing dog Wren, an incredible amount of support!

What advice would you give to a young person in order to build their confidence with their deafness?

My advice, not just to people who are hearing impaired but to anyone who has a disability, is to never give up. You can do anything you put your mind to. Don’t be disheartened if people feel like they don’t want to understand your disability, and definitely don’t let it get you down.

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