Ayrshire optometrist sees benefit of sign language

Ayrshire-based optometrist, Nadine Joyce (24), has set her sights on serving her community after being inspired by her deaf sister.

After suffering with sight problems as a child and learning to use sign language to communicate with her profoundly deaf sister, Danielle (20), Nadine decided to become an optometrist at a Black & Lizars clinic that also does hearing tests. 

After studying optometry at university, Nadine is now in her final year of training at Black & Lizars clinic in Ayr. 

She suffered from a lazy eye and optic disc drusen -a condition where the optic nerves gather calcium deposits - meaning she has a larger blind spot than other people, which could worsen in time. As a child, Nadine was regularly in and out of hospital to monitor her condition, and wanted to be able to help others with her sight. 

Nadine said: "Part of my decision to go into optometry was because of my own experience, but also because I realised that it could detect a whole range of other conditions that might otherwise go unnoticed, so there is potential to make a real difference to people's lives. 

The clinic I work in now also offers hearing tests, and being able to communicate through sign language has come in handy. 

I will always remember the first deaf patient who came into the store. The look on his face when I signed to him - he was so happy that he could communicate easily with someone. British sign language is so easy to learn. I'm teaching my manager now. 

My mum knew how to sign for another relative, and when Danielle completely lost the hearing in one ear and the other deteriorated badly, mum taught us how to sign. Danielle can also lip read very well."

Danielle certainly hasn't let her deafness hold her back. She studies sports and exercise science at Stirling University and has competed in mainstream swimming competitions against hearing athletes. She has competed around the globe and holds 10 deaf swimming world records and won Scottish Women in Sport - Sportswoman of the Year 2015. 

Nadine said: "She's at a disadvantage because she can't hear her coach at the poolside and the spur from the crowd. She doesn't listen for a gun on the blocks, instead looking for a light by the side of her block - but there's a reaction disadvantage there as well."

Nadine believes that people have a common misconception that hearing loss only occurs when they get older and that's not the case at all. She said: "You only have one set of eyes and you only have one set of ears and you need to make sure you look after them and get your hearing and eyes checked."

A hearing assessment with Black & Lizars is free and takes around an hour. It can provide reassurance that hearing is fine - or highlight an issue that needs further treatment. 

Michelle Le Prevost, managing director of Black and Lizars, said: "Nadine's story is inspiring. Her ability to communicate effectively with our hearing patients is invaluable, it really puts people at ease. Our staff are always looking to provide the highest quality of care and service, and Nadine's use of sign language really puts our hearing care patients at ease. 

We are proud to have the facilities to allow our optometrist to develop their clinical skills and train in hearing care."

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