Rosie Gallen

Age: 26
Interior Designer
Profoundly deaf

 
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Being the youngest of three spirited girls, Mum and Dad knew something wasn’t quite right when I wasn’t responding to sound the same way my sisters did. The starting point of my diagnosis was when I didn’t respond to the door slamming from the wind. Dad noticed I did not flinch and decided to do a DIY hearing test where he sat me down in the kitchen and clanged some pots and pans. Sure enough, I didn’t respond. Soon after, I had many appointments, was operated on, and was then officially diagnosed as profoundly deaf.

Initially I had two hearing aids but eventually they weren’t powerful enough. I was 11 when I decided to have my first cochlear implant. The outcome of this decision was so positive that I decided to get the second cochlear implant in my right ear at age 21. It was the best decision, as it enhanced the quality and clarity of sound. I know I would be completely lost and wouldn’t have had the same opportunities, had it not been for the cochlear implants.

Being deaf is all I’ve ever known, however I sometimes feel conflicted in identifying between the hearing world and the deaf world. Whilst I am classified as ‘profoundly deaf’, I am so independent and capable of doing most things on a daily basis that I often forget I have a hearing impairment. Sure, I’ve had some moments where I did wonder what it would be like to be ‘normal’ for a day or two, and there are challenges that come my way, but I try not to let it affect me. I’m independent, active, am able to live in the big smoke – a six hour drive from my small home town where there are more cows than there are people.

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School was sometimes a challenge, especially when I had hearing aids. They were not powerful enough to allow me to hear and cope in a classroom learning environment. I also had to put in twice the amount of effort as my peers in order to keep up. When I had my cochlear implants, this improved tenfold. It wasn’t perfect like a full hearing child but it was pretty good considering the circumstances. As a result of my deafness, I learned to lipread really well. I wouldn’t say it’s something that I consciously learned, it just came naturally. I guess it’s a survival mechanism. I remember in high school, I would lipread what students were gossiping about and I could relay what was being said to my friends. Everyone was quite impressed.

My family, without a doubt, are my biggest supporters. When I was first officially diagnosed as ‘profoundly deaf’, Mum and Dad were informed I would never be able to speak nor hear and that my only method of communication would be sign language. However they were determined to make sure I succeeded and had the same opportunities as my sisters and as those around me. I was fortunate in being provided with early intervention support where I learned listening and speaking skills. It was instrumental in my development and I wouldn’t be who I am today without that support. 

Even with two cochlear implants you still have to put in a lot of effort to understand people. You have to be far more attentive and focused than most people think. It can be exhausting. Sometimes you just need to escape from it all. To be in your own world. Silent and peaceful.
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My deafness has been a barrier but I’ve worked hard to overcome it. I’ve finished my studies, I travelled independently in Europe and I now live in an incredible bustling city. I actually get asked where I’m from as my accent is a little different to a typical Australian accent. I guess my ‘exotic looks’ add to the mystique. I love being asked this question because they don’t actually know I’m deaf and it allows me to have a little fun and secretly I’m chuffed. If they knew I was deaf, I’m sure they wouldn’t raise the subject.

The ocean is my nirvana – it’s my release and my place where I can escape to for a moment and reconnect with my other senses. It’s where my brain, which is in overdrive from being on alert to make sure I capture all pieces of sound throughout the day, can switch off. It’s about being alone, being in tune with my emotions and a clearness of thought. Sometimes it is overwhelming to have all the noise and reverberations on a constant basis and the ocean allows me to be in my natural state of having no hearing. And that to me, is bliss – even just for a moment. 

 
 

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