In spite of a hearing impairment, Dr Ijeoma Jane Nnodim scaled through the odds to become a very successful paeditrician and a fellow of the West African College of Physicians in paediatrics.
Born with severe sensorineural hearing loss, which means that without hearing aids she is almost completely deaf, Dr. Ijeoma struggled through school and only lip-read to understand what was being taught until she got a hearing-aid.
In this interview with Sola Abe for woman.ng, Dr. Ijeoma shared her life’s journey.
On what Sensorineural Hearing Loss is
Hearing loss is of two types: Conductive hearing loss and Sensorineural hearing loss. Conductive hearing loss affects the part of the ear called the middle ear, for example, a thick mass of wax blocking it. This can be remedied by simple procedures.
Sensorineural hearing loss on the other hand affects the part called the inner ear. The nerve endings involved in hearing are damaged. It can be mild, moderate, severe or profound. Usually hearing aids or a special operation called cochlear implant are required.
Her experience with a hearing disability growing up
Growing up with a hearing impairment was not a bed of roses. My nursery school report indicated that I was inattentive in class. In primary and secondary school, I was the butt of jokes several times because I often didn’t respond when called. This made me withdrawn and I sought solace in books. In primary school I was already reading big books that my seniors in secondary school were not yet reading.
How did you manage in school with such condition?
I coped in school by lip-reading and copying notes in class. I didn’t have access to a hearing aid until after secondary school. It was wonderful hearing sounds people take for granted; baby’s cries, passing vehicles, cooing birds etc. At the University I made sure I got to the lecture halls early to sit in front.
The first hearing aid used was one a family member used and discarded when it spoilt. My mother found someone who repaired it.
The hearing aid spoilt several times being a second hand one. Hearing aids are very expensive and a new digital one now costs between 350, 000 to 600, 000 or even more.
How long it took to get another hearing aid after the first got spoilt and how she coped during those times
After the first hearing aid spoilt it took months to get another. At university I absolutely had to see the lecturer to follow what was said via lip-reading. I photocopied notes from classmates. I got my first new hearing aid with the contribution of Lions club through Prof. David Oke, my cardiology lecturer then.
The challenges she encountered on her way to being a paediatrician as regards her condition
The journey to being a paediatrician is not easy even for a person with normal hearing. The examinations involved are usually very tedious with a low success rate. I cannot appreciate my husband enough for the support he gave me during this period. A lot of times I would drag a mattress to the seminar room of my department and sleep there to ensure that I met up with my personal timetable for the day. My kids hardly saw me during that period. By God’s grace I was able to pass the examinations in record time.
The symptoms to look out for in a child with Sensorineural Hearing Loss
Symptoms of hearing loss in children include;
Not responding to sounds, calls
Wanting the television or radio louder than usual
The causes of Sensorineural Hearing Loss
Some causes of hearing loss include some viral infections during pregnancy, some drugs (some antibiotics), ear infections, and noise exposure. In some cases like mine, it is hereditary.
What her experience with Sensorineural Hearing Loss has taught her
As a child born with hearing loss and now a mother of two; this experience has taught me that teachers and mothers should be observant. Their so-called stubborn /inattentive wards/children might just have a hearing loss.
I want to appeal to the government to look for and pass the DISABILITY BILL so that people with disability can have an enabling environment to maximize their potential.