The Courageous Bride Who Will Take Her Vows in Silence; Katrina Humphries, Who Was a Childhood Victim of Deafness, Talks to Ros Dodd about How She Copes with Communication Problems

The Birmingham Post (England), February 24, 1998 | Go to article overview

The Courageous Bride Who Will Take Her Vows in Silence; Katrina Humphries, Who Was a Childhood Victim of Deafness, Talks to Ros Dodd about How She Copes with Communication Problems


Katrina Humphries will be a bundle of nerves on her wedding day. Not only because she's getting married, but because she won't be able to hear what the vicar's saying.

"Hopefully he'll explain exactly what he's going to say, so I can memorise it," she says. "But I know I'll be more nervous on the day about not understanding the service than I will be about getting married."

Katrina won't be able to listen to herself making her vows to fiance David because she's almost completely deaf. You wouldn't know it to look at her; nor to hear her talk. As her lip-reading skills are first class, it might be quite a while before you realised she couldn't hear you.

"The problem with deafness is that it's a hidden disability," she says. "If you're in a wheelchair, people know straightaway there's something wrong with you, but you can't see deafness. Also, because I can talk so well, people don't realise how bad my hearing is."

Katrina, who lives in Brierley Hill, was born with severe hearing difficulties and the problem worsened as she got older. By the time she went to secondary school, she was so deaf she couldn't hear what her teachers were saying.

"I'd sit at the front of the class, but even then it was really difficult because I couldn't write or follow a textbook and lip-read what the teachers were saying at the same time," she explains.

"I just read lots of books; I think that's how I managed to pass all my exams. If I'd known what I know now I would have really fought to get more help. As it was, it was a real struggle."

What made things more difficult was that Katrina was too "embarrassed and ashamed" to admit she couldn't hear.

"It was just terrible," she remembers. "Because of the teasing I got from other children, I used to pretend there was nothing wrong with me. That made people think I was really ignorant.

"Even people within my group of friends would get fed up with me. Someone would tell a joke and everyone would laugh but me. I'd say: 'What's so funny'? And they'd say: 'Oh, we're not going to repeat it'.

"There was one girl who used to pick on me a lot who I've now found out has gone deaf herself. I wonder if she looks back and remembers what she put me through."

One of the reasons Katrina used to deny she was deaf was that she was unable to come to terms with the fact she was different from other youngsters.

"I really thought it would go away," she says. "But it just got worse and worse. Eventually I came to terms with my disability and that made me more confident."

Life improved drastically when 26-year-old Katrina started to learn sign language four years ago.

"It's the best thing I ever did; it's made me so much more aware of the deaf world. It's helped me to realise there are people out there who are just like me."

Since Katrina learned to sign, many of her friends have taken lessons and her fiance is also adept at the language.

"My fiance is brilliant," she says. "He's very supportive. Past boyfriends used to get angry with me because I couldn't hear, but he interprets for me."

The couple met at a deaf club just over a year ago. …

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