It was music to the ears of a construction worker when his fiancée finally agreed to tie the knot. His fiancée had refused to marry him until he had hearing aids fitted, fearing he would never hear the vows.
Sarah Smart, 38, who works in advertising, started dating Derren Wing, 49, back in 2005 when she was working behind a bar at a venue where he was the doorman. She initially accepted when he proposed in Las Vegas, USA, in March 2014, but the pair delayed making plans, as Sarah feared Derren’s growing deafness meant he would not hear the service, saying: “I was worried he’d ignore the officiant or don’t hear the vows properly.”
She added: “It’s such an important day and I was really concerned about Derren’s hearing loss. He was really reluctant to get it sorted, but I knew I couldn’t go through with the wedding without hearing his being sorted first.”
While Derren cannot pinpoint when his hearing began to fade, he has definitely noticed it deteriorating in the last few years. As Sarah explained: “When we met, he didn’t have any problems with his hearing. It’s something that has gradually got worse over the years. I’d notice that I would say something and he wouldn’t pick up on it. I suggested that he get his hearing tested which he did.”
The hearing test in March 2016 confirmed that Derren was hard of hearing and aids were recommended: “He wouldn’t get hearing aids fitted and, at the time, his hearing loss wasn’t as bad as it is now.”
When the couple were first engaged, they had never intended to marry in haste, particularly as the proposal was a complete surprise to Sarah. She said: “We had discussed the prospect of getting married but the proposal was a complete surprise. We were actually on the trip for another wedding and Derren had been trying to throw me off the scent, so I was completely shocked but delighted when he popped the question. We both knew it would be a long engagement, as we weren’t in a rush to get married.”
But the lead in to the big day grew longer, as Derren’s hearing began to fail. Sarah said: “I would be talking to him from another room and he wouldn’t hear a thing I was saying.
“I think I noticed his hearing problems more than he did, because I could see that he was seemingly ignoring people when we were out socializing or not picking up on conversations when we were watching TV. I convinced him to get his hearing checked, but the only solution was for Derren to start wearing hearing aids, which he wouldn’t do.”
She added: “In social situations, it was becoming apparent. We would go out for lunch with friends and Derren wouldn’t hear half the conversation. He wasn’t being rude, it was just his hearing, but I didn’t want him to miss out on things. I thought to myself, ‘What if he doesn’t hear half the wedding ceremony? We can’t get married if it doesn’t get fixed. In the end, I told him that I wouldn’t get married if he didn’t sort out his hearing.”
(Image: PA Real Life)
After putting off having aids fitted, Derren finally agreed in 2020 when it became clear his fiancée was deadly serious that she would not become his wife unless he got the help he needed: “Derren has since moved to a new job working in construction on the railway and it’s vital that he can hear properly, otherwise it could end up being very dangerous if a train is approaching and he isn’t aware. But beyond that, it’s just been life-changing for him. It can be quite isolating not being able to hear properly.”
Meanwhile, Derren admits that part of his hesitation in getting help was that he feared wearing hearing aids would carry a stigma. He said: “I felt that I was too young to be having hearing problems and, especially working in construction, I didn’t want to deal with comments from my co-workers. There’s a lot of banter being had back and forth while you’re working and I was worried it could end up being at my expense.
“But the aids I wear are very small. They don’t hang over the back of my ears, they fit right into the ear, so that no one can see them. No one at work even knows I wear them, so any fear of being laughed at for wearing them has completely gone.”
Recalling the day he first wore the hearing aids, Derren remembers how he was shocked by how loud the birds were in his garden. He said: “I hadn’t heard the birds chirping in about 15 years. You can take something as important as your hearing for granted and I don’t think I really realized just how bad it had got until I had the hearing aids fitted. The guy sorting them made Sarah walk to the end of the hallway and talk to me while the radio was on. I picked up every single word. That’s when I knew what a difference the hearing aids would make to my life.”
He added: “In between the wedding and the honeymoon is my 50th birthday, so we have a lot to look forward to in the next few months. Being able to hear properly has opened up my life again and now I can’t wait to hear Sarah say her vows at the end of the aisle this August.”
Hidden Hearing offer free hearing tests across the country, for more information visit: hiddenhearing.co.uk
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