James Curtis was born profoundly deaf but was not diagnosed until he was 8 months old.

He had his first cochlear implant fitted aged two and a second aged four before having Auditory Verbal therapy.

He is now 18 and thriving at Durham University after excelling in his A-levels.

Here James gives tips to other deaf students considering moving away to study:

Tell us about yourself! Where are you from, what are your hobbies, what do you do in your spare time?

My name is James Curtis. I am 18 years old and from London. I am currently studying History at Durham University. I enjoy performing card magic, doing public speaking and playing sports. At Durham I am playing mixed lacrosse, doing rowing, hockey, tennis and darts. I also really enjoy travelling, in particular hiking and skiing. In my spare time I enjoy reading or watching TV.

Can you tell us about your hearing loss? Were you born deaf, or did you lose your hearing?

I was born with profound bilateral hearing loss. Without my cochlear implants I can hear nothing.

When did you get your cochlear implant(s)? If you remember getting your implant, what was the experience like?

I got my cochlear implants one at a time. I was implanted on the left when I was 2 years old and, on the right, when I was 4 years old. I do not remember anything about the experience.

What is your favorite thing about cochlear implants?

My cochlear implants enable me to hear and speak to a mainstream level. This is an amazing concept. Without my cochlear implants I would be completely deaf and my life would completely limited.

What and where are you studying?

I’m studying history at Durham University.

Why did you decide to study this subject?

I always thought that I would study economics at university. However, I really enjoyed my History Pre-U course and decided that history would be the more interesting route to pursue. I really enjoy reading, researching and writing essays. I thought that history would provide me with a better skill set than economics.

Were you nervous or excited (or both!) about going to uni? What impact did you think your hearing loss would have on being a student?

I wasn’t at all nervous about going to uni. I wasn’t too worried about the impact that my hearing loss would have on being a student. I was concerned about how I would be able to cope in lectures as well as noisy social situations.

Did you tell your university that you have hearing loss?

I did. I made contact with the university disability team to make sure all possible accommodations were made.

Has your uni made any accommodations for your hearing loss (such as preferred seating, note-takers etc)?

I have been given a note-taker as well as several applications to help me in lectures, i.e. recording apps. I have also been given library concessions.

Do you find it hard to hear in classes and lectures? What have you done to help this?

I don’t find it hard to hear in lectures. However, this is only because of the Roger Pen. It is incredibly useful and is my main tool enabling me to hear at uni.

Are there any other study environments where you find it challenging to hear?

Sometimes it can be hard to hear in seminars, but, I have explained my deafness to my professors and they have made accommodations to make it easier for me. The seminar group always sits in a circle so that I can see everyone’s lips and also so that the Roger Pen picks up everyone’s voices.

Do other students ask what your cochlear implants are? What do you say?

More often than not people don’t ask. I prefer it when people do ask and I just explain it fully but briefly.

Have you found it easy to make friends? Has your hearing loss had an impact (either positive or negative) on your social life?

My hearing loss hasn’t had an impact on my social life.

What has been the best thing about uni so far?

Meeting new people has by far been the best part of university.

What has been the biggest challenge so far?

The biggest challenge has been time management, balancing work, social life, sports, extra-curriculars etc…

What advice would you have for other students with cochlear implants?

My biggest piece of advice would be don’t be afraid to ask for accommodations. The university will be more than willing to get you everything that you need no matter how small.

I would also say be confident. Don’t be afraid to ask your friends and fellow students to help you out in certain situations.

What are you most looking forward to during your time at uni?

Meeting more people as well as taking advantage of the opportunities that Durham has to offer.