"When Odin came into my life, everything changed"
Posted by Matt Sadler
After losing her hearing as a child, Jodie struggled with mental health problems, had little confidence, and felt cut off from the world around her.
This all changed when she was matched with superhero hearing dog Odin, who Jodie says has not only restored her confidence, but has helped her be a better mum and has been her saving grace during the Coronavirus lockdowns.
Here, Jodie tells her story in her own words:
“I lost most of my hearing as a child, and no one really knew why. It had a major impact on my life from the start. I’ve always felt very isolated and excluded and would miss what everyone was saying.
“My mental health has suffered since I was about 13 years old. In fact, I was sectioned at the age of 16 for about seven months. That’s how bad it got. It was at this point that I was diagnosed with bipolar.
“Now, at 29, knowing that I will eventually lose my remaining hearing makes life really scary. I have been told by my specialist that if I get a bad bout of the flu again, I could practically lose it overnight. This is a constant worry and has been made worse by the recent Coronavirus pandemic.
“Work has always been particularly difficult. My boss never took my deafness seriously and made working not very pleasurable. Colleagues would find it funny to sneak up on me as they knew I couldn’t hear. It really knocked my confidence.
“Before the Coronavirus and lockdowns, I would only ever go out socially with friends and family who understood my hearing loss and would speak to me in a way that I could lip read. But I often felt alone and lost during conversations. I always felt like I was in a world by myself. I would give anything to be able to hear again and not miss out on conversations.
“My deafness has got to the point now where my speech has impairments, and I can’t pronounce words properly.
“Not being able to hear not only damages your confidence but it also can make you feel really unsafe. I never went out much on my own, only with my husband as I knew he could be my ears. I was once hit by someone on a bike because I didn’t hear them coming. They said they rang their bell, but because I couldn’t hear it, he just rode straight into me anyway.
“Not being able to hear warning sounds left me too scared to leave the house in case something would happen. It had a huge impact on my confidence.
“I decided to apply for a hearing dog around the same time as my husband and I started the process of adopting a child. I knew I would really benefit by being alerted to important sounds, so that I could be a better mum to my child.
“When my hearing dog Odin came into my life, everything changed. I remember receiving the email telling me I had been matched with him. I cried with joy.
“He came to me at just the right time – not long after our beautiful daughter Olivia came to us. Odin helped to allay some of the fears I had about being a new mum. He was trained by Hearing Dogs to alert me when my daughter cries. I really value this (although I’m still getting used to the 4am wake up calls!) as it means I don’t have to worry as much as I would have and I feel safe knowing that if there was an emergency, Odin would be there.
“Being a new mum is hard but so rewarding, and it’s made much easier by having Odin. Olivia and Odin are best friends. They play together and Odin always comforts her if she is upset or overwhelmed. He is so gentle with her. Odin has given me the confidence to attend playgroups with Olivia, and he’s a visual reminder of my deafness which makes explaining it to people so much easier.
“Odin has given me a newfound confidence, knowing I can go out and he will be there by my side, being my ears. It’s made me want to go and see things and explore more.
“Odin had been trained to do ‘the call’, which is where someone can ask him to go and fetch another person. My husband uses this which makes life so much easier as he doesn’t have to try and shout, knowing that I probably won’t be able to hear him. He can simply ask Odin to go and get me, and Odin will let me know by nudging me with his nose and then leading me to my husband. He’s such a clever boy.
“Odin brings an awareness to the fact that I’m deaf. When I’m out with him and he’s in his burgundy Hearing Dogs jacket it tells people that I am deaf, and that I am not being rude if I don’t hear someone talking to me.
“Since having Odin I’ve been able to sleep properly for the first time in my life. I used to be terrified that the fire alarm would go off, or someone would break in, and I wouldn’t know. The fear was so strong I used to dread bedtime every day. It makes things so much easier knowing that if there was a fire, Odin would alert me, and I could get my daughter to safety.
“Odin loves alerting me to sounds. He loves me unconditionally and I am so grateful to have him in my life. With my daughter and Odin, I feel like our family is complete. I love our walks by the canal when Olivia will laugh at Odin swimming.
“Odin has been my saving grace throughout the Coronavirus lockdowns. He came to every hospital appointment we had during the first lockdown and it was great. He’s so supportive and really calms my nerves, just by being next to me.
“Our daily exercise has kept my mind busy and has been our haven to stretch our legs and get some fresh air. This kept my mental health in check when not being able to see family was so hard. Lockdown would have been so different and so much more difficult without Odin.
“One thing that has been particularly difficult recently is the fact that everyone has been wearing masks and face coverings. I know this is a sensible precaution to take, but as a deaf person I feel alone in a hearing world at the best of times so when you add in face masks it now becomes impossible, because I can’t see people’s faces to try and lipread.
“My anxiety level went thought the roof. I didn't want to leave home or go to the shops. People refused to lower their mask when talking to me and then would walk off when I didn’t understand them. Odin levelled my nerves and reduced my anxiety and by wearing his jacket more people become aware of the communication barrier and were more willing to lower their mask so I could see their lips move.
“People became more understanding and more accommodating towards me because of Odin, and that helped me a lot. I'm proud to walk out with Odin. He walks beside me so I can hold my head up and think ‘It’s OK, we've got this!’”
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