Billy 2.0 – Why are some parents against cochlear implants for their children?

Cristina Hartmann
I’ve been trying for a long time to articulate my thoughts on this particular issue – in the end I found someone else had already answered the question with much more clarity and balance than I ever could. Her name is Cristina Hartmann, a writer based in the USA. Her thoughts are reprinted below from Quora with her kind permission.
I hope I’ll be able to offer a unique perspective that explains why the Deaf community resents CIs.
Let me establish my background and knowledge of Cochlear Implants (CIs) and the Deaf culture.I was born profoundly deaf in the early 1980s, so I learned American Sign Language (ASL) as my first language. Mind you, this is not as easy as it sounds. My family and I went to classes when I was 6 months old. I needed individual tutoring in the language daily because my family wasn’t fluent. Of course they weren’t fluent.
My family is like a large majority of deaf children’s parents: hearing. Continue reading “Billy 2.0 – Why are some parents against cochlear implants for their children?”

Billy 2.0 – Blogging on the BBC

Billy and Barnaby on the BBC

Sorry for the lack of updates recently – in the last month I’ve celebrated my birthday, Christmas and danced in an RAF Uniform on New Year’s Eve.

When fellow BBC employee Damon Rose asked me to join him in Broadcasting House for an interview for the Ouch! podcast, I couldn’t say no.

I also wrote a new piece for them about why I had the implant, and where I am with it now.

There will be a transcript of the radio interview on the page as well, I believe. That contains a rather unorthodox hearing test and some interesting chat about whether deaf children should have cochlear implants…

I hope you like it.

Further reading:
Switching on my Hearing – BBC Ouch!
Interview transcript

Billy 2.0 – The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser


Kaspar Hauser was a mysterious teenage boy who appeared in the streets of Nuremberg in 1828, with limited vocabulary and understanding of the world. He claimed that he’d been imprisoned in a cellar most of his life with nothing but a wooden horse to play with. History has revealed he was probably a fantasist, but his mystery has never been solved.

I first learned of Hauser from watching Werner Herzog’s unsettling and affecting portrait of his short and troubled life starring an actor called Bruno S, who wasn’t the most ordinary person himself.

The first time I watched The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser, I was completely creeped out by Bruno S’ portrayal of a full-grown adult with the mind of a child, learning the names of things for the first time, trying to use a knife and fork, and reacting in a completely childlike, unaffected way to his surroundings.

I feel like Kaspar Hauser. Continue reading “Billy 2.0 – The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser”

Billy 2.0 – Coming up on an E

Human Traffic
I’ve been switched on for a couple of days now. After a great deal of reflection, I’ve realised that the only way to explain what I’ve been through is by using drug references.

So be warned: this article contains references to consumption of illegal drugs and their effects on the brain. It may also make much less sense than other stuff I’ve written in the past, for reasons which will hopefully become clear.

When I went into the audiologist’s office to be activated/switched on/turned on, I was expecting the unexpected. I knew it was going to be strange and uncanny. Even the audiologist told me that today would probably be the worst day of my life with a cochlear implant, and it would only get better from this point onwards. What happened next wasn’t really the worst thing ever, but it was deeply, deeply weird. Continue reading “Billy 2.0 – Coming up on an E”

Billy 2.0 – ACTIVATE!

Spit it like Beckham

A month since the operation, and I feel fine. There is however one unfortunate side effect which I need to share with you.

I can’t blow my nose properly.

If I sneeze with my mouth closed, or blow my nose REALLY REALLY HARD, I feel this sudden POP under the skin of my skull covering the implant, like a bit of air’s escaped and has momentarily inflated the skin like a comedy balloon.

It feels… unpleasant. Continue reading “Billy 2.0 – ACTIVATE!”

Lord Jack Ashley of Stoke: The Measure of the Man

Lord Jack Ashley of Stoke, courtesy of Rex Features

F Scott Fitzgerald once wrote: ‘There are no second acts in American lives.”

He never met Jack Ashley, an Englishman who had a second, third, fourth, even fifth act in his life. He was a man who came from a Widnes slum to sitting in the House of Lords. It was a life very well lived, right up until he passed away earlier this year.

Continue reading “Lord Jack Ashley of Stoke: The Measure of the Man”

Billy 2.0 – One Week After the Operation

The inside of William Mager's head

A week after my operation I went back to the hospital. They took the dressings off, did an X-ray and told me I was allowed to wash all the matted blood and dried gunk out of my hair at last. They’ve given me a list of dates from now until March when I’ll have to go into hospital for various switch ons, tune ups and therapy sessions.

Now I’m sitting here looking at an X-ray of my cochlear implant inside my head.

Continue reading “Billy 2.0 – One Week After the Operation”

Billy 2.0 – The Elephant in the Room

The Elephant in the Room by Banksy

It’s time we talked about the elephant in the room. I believe there are people out there who don’t agree with my decision to have a cochlear implant.

It’s been interesting to see people’s reactions when I tell them I’m having a bionic ear put in. The looks of mild disappointment, the tacit silences, noncommital shrugs, mutterings of ‘It’s your decision’.

That reaction is mostly from my Deaf friends.

Continue reading “Billy 2.0 – The Elephant in the Room”

Why I haven’t used crowdfunding to pay for my next film… yet

Image courtesy of

I’ve been lucky enough to get money from various people – The BBC, Channel 4, the NDCS, Jack Ashley, the UK Film Council, Film London and BSLZone – to make various films over the years. I’ve never had to resort to writing letters asking for loans (OK, just the once, and I paid him back) or using crowdfunding websites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo. With Kickstarter about to launch in the UK this month, the opportunities for getting people to pay you to make a movie are better than ever.

Making a feature film is the long term goal. I have a shortlist of about five story ideas that could be made on a low budget, which – with the right actors – could even end up on supermarket shelves for £5.97. Each of these ideas are in various stages, some more advanced than others. But how to finance a feature? I could do a Kevin Smith and pay for it by credit card, but all my cards are maxed out. I could do a Truffaut and get a dentist to raise my money for me, but I don’t know any dentists. I’ve thought about asking the BFI for some development money, but the application form looks like a nightmare.

That leaves me with crowdfunding, which seems to be the platform of choice for getting film projects off the ground. So why haven’t I used a crowdfunding site to launch a low budget feature film project?

Continue reading “Why I haven’t used crowdfunding to pay for my next film… yet”