Living with a hidden disability

As a young girl there was always this feeling of loss, like something was missing from within me, I felt confused because of the way people treated me and even now I frequently feel invisible.  Written by Ollie Coach, Sangeeta Handa

Feeling a sense of loss. 

From a young girl until now I have always felt a sense of loss, a sense of incompleteness, struggling in the classroom, appearing to look thick, being bullied throughout my school life.  All of these continue to have a daily effect on me in some way shape or form.

As a young girl there was always this feeling of loss like something was missing from within me, there have been many scary moments due to having one of my senses taken from me as a child, I felt confused because of the way people treated me and even now I frequently feel invisible,  this then becomes worse when you cannot hear,  people cannot see that you can’t hear, sometimes speech is effective but people can be cruel, some knowingly, some unknowingly and then there are the minority that actually want to understand you as a person and make you feel included.  I was always afraid to walk in the dark this I now understand is due to my hearing loss not being able to hear cars or people coming from behind me.  The amount of times a colleague has had to pull me back because I didn’t hear the oncoming car!

Face to face is actually much easier in some ways , it has its pros and cons, somehow my brain taught my good self to lip read (there are course which you can take to learn to lip read), relying heavily on this means I can decipher conversations better but its dependent on the background noise, lighting, environment and atmosphere as all these play a huge part. Deaf fatigue is now a recognised condition - exhaustion from lip reading all day is very draining!

However being on the telephone is whole different ball game this comes with an array of issues such as; unable to see people’s lips, listening to people’s accents,  people who mumble, people who insist on covering their mouth when they are talking,  generally not speaking clearly plays havoc when trying to have a 2 way conversation.  You can forget the bog-standard telephone this became redundant for me very early on when it was clear I couldn’t hear a thing.  These days you can buy phones with a vast amount of specialist equipment that connect up to my hearing aids via Bluetooth, this gives me direct input.  TV with subtitles is a must!

Finding ways to help myself

Over the years, I learnt to find ways to help myself, I would always ask for clarity at the end of classes if I didn’t understand anything and this was generally when no one else was around just the teacher and me.  I would always try and sit at the front of every classroom, making sure I stood to the left of anyone I spoke to as my right ear is my better ear.   The older version of me struggles a lot more as everyday sounds are nosier.  On a train platform listening to announcements is a nightmare its only when I see the visual display board that I know I am getting on the right train! I can’t even begin to tell you how many wrong trains I have got on!

Mobile phones have helped hugely as there are various apps that can help translate speech to text.  I use a gadget called a streamer which transmits my calls direct to my aids so I could be walking along and appear to be talking to myself as I am unable to use bog standard earphones.  I wouldn’t say society has changed things for the better as people are always in a rush and tend to show little patience towards my disability.  They say 1 in 10 people will lose their hearing by 2050 due to the excessive usage of earphones with blaring music.

When you don’t know how to communicate your feelings or the way you start seeing or hearing the world and no one is there to understand, it becomes very hard for anybody to hear or see through someone else’s mind, unless they too suffer from a hearing loss. To have the correct counselling and nurturing at this early stage coupled with learning and understanding that you are not, any less of a human than anyone else.   You have to be special to raise yourself above what people take for granted every day.

As a child this is very difficult to accept especially when you do not get the correct education or support, so then it becomes something that you feel you have to be ashamed of and hide until many years later for some reason, you have to accept and once this is done it’s like opening up the door and being free of a stigma that has held you back, and made you feel inadequate, where in fact you suddenly realise that you have gotten through life and managed difficult situations that an able-bodied person takes for granted.

Having the confidence to be me

The last few years I have found the courage to speak about my disability by delivering deaf awareness sessions up and down the country.   I would never have been able to do this as a child; I realise more now than ever that I am the biggest advocate to raising deaf awareness!

I was once described as a road traffic camera before they were painted yellow back in the day. Anyone I met had no idea that I have a disability, with my hair covering my bone anchored hearing aids no one can see that I am unable to hear, the camera being that no one could see it until it was painted yellow to become a visible device.

In later life I trained as an Ollie coach in order to help children/adults to regain their confidence and superpowers.  I can totally empathise with anyone who lives with any disability hidden or not.  Showing empathy knowing that I could be seeing someone who has a hearing loss will mean I am halfway to understanding some of their struggles.  I can also help give parents tips on how to help their child from a hearing loss perspective.  No kid is bad it’s when you understand how they view the world is when I can help the most.  Every behaviour serves a purpose.

Patience is my friend

Love is my religion

Respect is my mantra as we are all fellow strugglers.


Sangeeta Handa, Ollie Coach

I am passionate about helping people become better versions of themselves. Daily stress can manifest in our health's.  Being able to give people the tools to manage their emotions is a gift that keeps giving. 

To get in contact with Sangeeta, email