Epi self-referred to Nga Kete to seek help and is now on the road to recovery, and will next week receive his first set of hearing aids.
This is his story:
My name is Epi Walker and I’m almost completely deaf.
I feel embarrassed telling people that. I actually wear a badge now that says I am hearing impaired. It’s easier than telling people.
I’m always a bit worried how I’ll react to people who don’t realize I can’t hear properly, and I often feel as though I’m being discriminated against.
It all stemmed from an incident on the field in 1994 when I was playing League and took a knock to the head.
That was just the beginning. Gradually my hearing started to deteriorate but I never managed to get the problem sorted. Instead I just left it. I got used to it.
Really I just didn’t feel like I was important enough. Other people were more important than me. So I just soldiered on and learnt to partially lip read.
As the years went by my hearing continued to deteriorate.
I had a career in construction and building but soon my hearing became a problem and my presence on a building site deemed a health and safety issue.
My job wasn’t the only area of my life to suffer. My hearing caused problems in every relationship I had, including with my children who always thought I was ignoring them.
I couldn’t study because I couldn’t hear what was being said, and I struggled to write because I also suffer from dyslexia.
I couldn’t play sport anymore because I couldn’t hear when my team mates were passing me the ball or yelling to me out on the field.
I couldn’t relate to people. They’d think I was dumb because I’d be having a conversation with them but completely off topic.
I couldn’t go to the pub. I’d be having a conversation with someone and the next minute they’d be swearing at me because they thought I was being ignorant.
My hearing meant “couldn’t” in almost every aspect of life.
It had defined me.
I was stressed, I withdrew, and I became depressed. That was when I turned to alcohol and drugs as a suppressant.
It made everything better and it would make me feel calm. It wasn’t an issue until it became a daily habit. It was then I realized my “medicine” had become the problem.
One day I realized ‘mate you can’t keep going like this’ and that’s when I referred myself to Nga Kete.
That changed my life.
Although I came for help with drug and alcohol addiction, I’ve been with the Whanau Ora team as well who have assisted me with future planning, budgeting, and arranging and attending appointments with me at the hearing clinic.
I’m so happy I came here. I feel so inspired when I walk in the door. I’ve only been coming here three months and in two weeks I get hearing aids! They’re also Government funded and so is the fitting.
I’ve also attended three sessions with a hearing loss group and it’s really helped to talk with like-minded people about how we cope with our disability.
I’m doing OK now, and I’m improving every day with my drug and alcohol addiction. I’m also going to the gym which always makes me feel better.
I’m a little apprehensive about the hearing aids because I’ve been like this for so long. I’m a bit scared about what it’s going to be like to have them but I’m really looking forward to it. It’s going to be the best thing for me. It’s going to change my life.
Once I’ve readjusted to a noisier life, I intend to start searching for employment and perhaps complete further education.
I didn’t feel important enough before but now that I’ve seen the damage it’s actually done to me over the years, and heard of others with similar issues, I can see now I’ve lost a lot of my life because of this.
But I am important. And I’m not embarrassed anymore.
For more information about our Whanau Ora, Addictions, or Disability Services please contact us (03) 214 5260.