She plays the clarinet, sings, listens to music and chats on the phone, but Ruth MacMullen was born profoundly deaf. Catherine Scott finds out how. Ruth Macmullen was 18 months old when doctors confirmed she was profoundly deaf.
“My parents were told I would never learn to speak or hear anything, but my parents pushed back and said they wanted to give it a go,” says Ruth now 28. “Looking back it was a bit like living your life under water. I could hear muffled sounds but that was it.”
Ruth’s mum taught her to speak and when she was eight and said she wanted to learn a musical instrument her ever supportive parents said ‘good idea’. Her mum set about researching the best instruments for a profoundly deaf person to play and discovered that the clarinet was ideal because of the amount of vibration.
“I always loved music and really wanted to play an instrument,” says Ruth. “Some people might have tried to put me off but my parents really encouraged me. I really enjoyed the clarinet getting to grade six and even playing in an orchestra. “I have been brought up to believe that if I want to do something then I should give it a go. Music has been no different.”
But growing up she did find being a deaf person in a hearing world at times very frustrating. “I went to a mainstream school and I wore really high powered hearing aids ,but I was frustrated at not being able to do all the things that the other children could do,” she says.
“I do think it has had an effect on me. Growing up and getting through the teenage years is hard enough, but you don’t really want to be different, being deaf made me stick out.”
And so when Ruth was 13 she was given a cochlear implant.