Tom graduates University
by Tom Sorbie
My name is Tom and I am 26 years old. I have a bi-lateral sensory neural hearing loss, severe to profound in high frequency and moderate in low frequency. My hearing loss was diagnosed when I was three and half years which was when I got my hearing aids. It wasn’t smooth sailing, I was determined not to wear them and did everything possible to get rid of them including flushing them down the toilet, throwing them out the car window and putting them inside a cake Mum was baking. I was a crafty little kid coming up with inventive ways to lose them. Luckily, the penny finally dropped that it was most definitely better for me to wear them and save my parents from an inevitable nervous breakdown!
After diagnosis, I attended the deaf nursery at Sylvan First School three mornings a week but I also attended my local pre-school two mornings a week. When it was time for me to start school, I was the first child to leave the deaf nursery and go to mainstream
school. I started at Hampreston First School with no speech and at the time I was the first statemented child the school had ever had. My parents were extremely worried about how it would work out and they were concerned that my year group would be learning to read but I could not even say the words. But they, and all the support services, felt it would work in mainstream and I have to say it did.
It was not long before my speech started to develop, but I could not manage at all without my hearing aids and I did have to concentrate much harder than the rest of the class. But by the end of Year One, I was reading as well as my peers. You could say fitting into school was not easy at times as I was the only child with hearing aids. What did help me was that I was quite talented at sport especially football and eventually I was seen as Tom the footballer instead of Tom the deaf boy.
Unfortunately, my hearing deteriorated when I was 11 years old which was when we found that the family loss (my dad and my brother have the same hearing loss) is a progressive hearing loss. Despite this, as a family, we were determined to make sure that it didn’t affect anything we wanted to achieve or do.
My school life progressed to Ferndown Middle School and then Ferndown Upper School. I attained ten GCSE’s and three A Levels. However, I must stress that this wouldn’t have been possible without the incredible support I had from the teachers of the deaf, my teaching assistants and my family. After achieving my A-Levels, I secured a place at University but after a gap year, I decided that specific course was not for me. Although, after working for a couple of years and doing some sports coaching, I then decided what I really wanted to do was to go to University to do a different course.
I secured a place at Bournemouth University to study Sport Business Management and started the four year course in October 2010. I graduated last November with a 2:1 degree. It was a proud and emotional day for all the family and one I will not forget. I am now using the business aspect of my degree in my job role as a Contracts Manager managing my cousin’s construction company.
When I look back, I have come a long way from the boy who started school with no speech. I now have confidence and self-belief in what I do in everyday life. Although, my life has been far from straightforward, I wouldn’t change it for the world. The support of my family, teachers of the deaf, teaching assistants, the schools as well as my friends have helped me grow into the person I am today, I cannot be more thankful to them. It just goes to show no matter what obstacles life throws at you, with determination, hard work, belief and a support network around you, you can achieve anything.
Being deaf can be frustrating, you can be misunderstood but remember you should never be underestimated!