Zoe lost her hearing as a very young child at the age of just one year. Tests showed that she had sensorineural deafness in her right ear and mild hearing loss in her left ear. She says it didn’t affect her too much as a young child but it became more of a problem as a teenager. When she started socialising in loud environments with her friends she would get headaches and feel bewildered.
With an invisible disability like hearing loss she found people didn’t understand when she failed to hear them and just thought her rude for ignoring them. She suffered with mild anxiety as a result and tried to compensate for her hearing loss by lipreading. It made going out to restaurants difficult as she couldn’t engage in the conversation.
Zoe developed a love of sport but found it hard because on the pitch she would miss the instructions being called out and her teammates would get frustrated with her. However hard, she kept going and started playing touch rugby at 16 years of age whilst at school and then went on to play some rugby union at university. She returned to touch rugby at the age of 27 being selected for the England women’s 27’s squad and played at regional level for South East England. It was a struggle to hear so by chance one day she googled and found deaf rugby union. Deaf Rugby was the perfect solution as everyone was in the same situation and used hand signals and sign language to communicate to each other.
Zoe has been with the team for 2 years and has worn the England jersey twice already. She has most recently been given the opportunity to do a tour in South Africa next year, 2020. In addition she has also been selected for England Touch rugby and is in training for the European Championships in 2020. A double whammy for her!
Zoe loves that rugby is a team sport and that she gets to play alongside girls who enjoy the physicality and speed as much as she does. It has become such an important part of her life she can longer imagine life without it.
Looking forward she is most excited to be able to promote deaf rugby in England and to the rest of the world, especially as part of the international tour to South Africa. This is the first ever international rugby union competition for England deaf rugby which makes it an even greater accomplishment. They train together as a squad every month working on basic skills, fitness, tackling and also improving their hand signals and general teamwork. She is even learning British Sign Language from some of the team members.
To play a team sport to such an elite level with minimal hearing is a huge achievement and quite rightly Zoe’s family and extremely proud of her and fully support her every step of the way. The South Africa tour is 2-12th May 2020 and happens to be during deaf awareness week. We wish Zoe all the very best and look forward following her successes next year.