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.
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.
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.