By Gillian Low

I don’t think of myself disabled, perhaps because I wasn’t classed as such until I was 32. My loss of hearing began at university when, one day, without warning, I couldn’t hear my lecturer. From then on I lived through 10 years of fluctuating hearing.

I’ll never forget standing in a travel agents in Sydney handing over the second half of a round-the-world ticket in exchange for a one-way ticket home to Glasgow. My hearing had dropped so badly that my once in a lifetime trip had come to an abrupt end. By 32 I was diagnosed as profoundly deaf, with no hope of ever regaining any natural hearing.

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Tests to understand why I lost my hearing were inconclusive. Perhaps it was the result of my love of clubbing throughout my teenage years in Glasgow. Who knows? The cause didn’t really matter to me. I was determined not to let my disability define me. I refused to learn to sign but taught myself to lip read and carried on with life.

From the age of 22 to 33 I developed my career in marketing whilst struggling to hear anything. I won’t lie – I believe my career would have advanced further if my hearing had not deteriorated – but I still managed to progress thanks to hard work and some understanding employers. Deafness can be an invisible disability that can irritate people, particularly if you require something to be repeated constantly. There were times I could tell I was annoying colleagues but the vast majority were encouraging, supportive and understanding.

Nevertheless, my confidence at times was shattered. There were dark days when I just wanted to go home and hide. There were days when I wondered how different my life might have been if I hadn’t lost my hearing. Fortunately they were few and far between. I am incredibly lucky to have a very loving family and an amazing group of friends who did not allow me to feel sorry for myself. I didn’t need to anyway because, thanks to them, I was still mostly leading a happy fulfilling life.

Life changed again in May 2010 when I received my first cochlear implant. My expectations were not high but any improvement would have been gratefully received. The results were overwhelming. Within three months I was scoring 80 per cent in hearing tests in my right ear.

Whilst my hearing is nowhere near "normal" and I have limitations, I could hear birds singing and planes fly overhead for the first time in 10 years. I felt like I had my old life back.

My implant gave me the confidence to apply for the marketing manager job at MacRoberts in 2012. In the four-and-a-half years that followed, I became a mum, received another cochlear implant and was promoted.

The level of patience, understanding and encouragement I receive from MacRoberts (and previous employers) cannot be underestimated. Whether it has been sourcing the right phone, making sure I can hear in meetings or having time off for appointments and surgery, they have supported and encouraged me.

Managing PR for the firm, my typical day involves calling and meeting journalists, networking, reviewing sponsorship proposals, presenting strategies and working closely with the team and partners. It’s busy and stressful at times but I am so grateful that I can do it all without worrying what I can and can’t hear.

I have been very lucky in my experiences at work. A recent survey by the Scottish Council of Deafness reported that 74 per cent of deaf people in Scotland said they were prevented from progressing at work because of their deafness. Research shows that their biggest barrier at work is lack of understanding by employers of their communication needs, with a shocking 60 per cent looking for another job because of their treatment at work.

There are 57,000 people in Scotland with severe or profound hearing loss. Awareness of deaf people’s needs has to be brought to the forefront of employers' minds so that these figures can change. It is why the work of GenAnalytics and the Diversity Awards, celebrating employers who embrace diversity, is so important.

Gillian Low is the senior marketing manager at MacRoberts, which is delighted to sponsor the Diversity Awards in association with Bank of Scotland and organised by The Herald and GenAnalytics.