Sophie Biebuyck has praised the charity Hearing Dogs for Deaf People, after it enabled her to get her life back on track.
The music teacher, who was originally a professional opera singer, had to suffer an infected cochlea at the age of 25; seven years after a similar virus reduced how much she could hear in her right ear. Since then Ms Biebuyck, who used to perform at venues such as the Vatican and the Italian Riviera, has been mostly deaf and now cannot even distinguish voices in small crowds.
After being advised by her doctor, Ms Biebuyck was encouraged to get a guide dog, which has been trained to carry out a series of functions such as letting her know if a student needs her, or warning her if either her phone or alarm clock goes off. The latter in particular is important as she has admitted to sleeping through a loud alarm in the past before. The dog is either a sproodle (a mix of a springer spaniel and a poodle) or a cockerpoo (a mix of a cocker spaniel and a poodle).
Talking to This is Total Essex, Ms Biebuyck said: "It was devastating when I lost my hearing. Effectively my career as an opera singer was over, but you've two options in these situations. You either feel sorry for yourself and crash, or get up and get on with it."
Ms Biebuyck went on to argue the importance of hearing aids when teaching in school. She added: "Without my hearing aids I am pretty useless. Most of my hearing has been lost from the upper frequencies and I do lip read to a certain extent.”
The music teacher currently trains students in singing, music and piano theory at Brentwood School in Essex.