A KEEN sportsman from HMS Sultan who recently suffered partial hearing loss, has been given a boost after being selected to represent England Deaf Rugby.
Petty Officer Engineering Technician Marine Engineering Rhys Bingham joined the Royal Navy 10 years ago. Before signing up, Rhys struggled with tinnitus and, although the condition often goes away, his hearing continued to deteriorate.
Tinnitus is a condition which can cause sufferers to complain of hearing a ringing or buzzing sound which can distract them or cause sleep issues.
With the help of hearing aids Rhys was able continue in his role within the Royal Navy and despite his disappointment, the experienced sailor has found fresh encouragement on the rugby pitch, making his international debut off the bench for England against Wales in the ‘Broadstreet Cup’ at Cardiff Arms Park.
Although the game ended in defeat for England, it was a great introduction to International Rugby for Rhys who also plays Hooker for Portsmouth Rugby Football Club.
Rhys said: ‘I noticed a reduction in my hearing over the past few years, so I took it up with the audiologist and failed a few tests. No one wants to lose their hearing, but every cloud has its silver lining and I’ve shown that I can still do my job on ship at sea.
‘I heard about deaf rugby via a friend who had just started playing for Wales before me and that inspired me to give it a go. I handed in all my hearing tests last summer, then had my first training session at the end of October before my first England game at the end of January.
‘Communication is quite difficult even in a normal game, but getting used to sign language and quick, short sharp signals has been a challenge. It has made a massive difference in improving my game.’
Deaf rugby is growing as a sport. There was a Rugby 7s World Cup last year in Australia and there’s even a home nations team which has been started to encourage further participation.
England has its next friendly match against Wales on April 13.
Rhys hopes to be able to play in the game.