Do you identify as Deaf or Hard of Hearing? Tell us about your diagnosis as a child?
I do, I am profoundly deaf in both my ears and had this condition since I was born (19th August 2002).
If and what age were you fitted with a hearing aid or cochlear implant and what was that like?
I was lucky to have observant parents and they were able to pick up the fact that I was deaf before my first birthday. My first Cochlear implant was done on the left ear when I was 10 months old and so my first-time hearing happened on my parent’s Wedding Anniversary (7th July 2003), I couldn’t remember exactly how I felt about hearing for the first time, but looking back at the old camera rolls, I looked both happy and a little shocked/frightened.
When I was 11 years old, I first heard water, thanks to the Cochlear Aqua+ Cover which changed the way I felt the water.
In Year 6 of my Primary School, I was fitted with my second Cochlear Implant.
Are you oral and if so, what was your experience like learning a spoken language?
I am oral yes, I felt fortunate to even attempt speaking other languages like Russian and German to broaden my vocal range. My English took time to flow, but I just kept practising and improving, still am.
Do you use Auslan or lipread, what age did you begin learning?
I lip-read if I would want to communicate with anyone without the Cochlear implants. But, I’m not the best in lip-reading, nor do I know much about Auslan.
How do you communicate within your family and amongst friends?
Normal I guess, I feel fortunate to be in a family who don’t mumble as much and easy to communicate with. My friends are almost the same, we all still have a good time regardless.
Tell us about going to school - what was that like? Did you have any help/ or assistance throughout your education?
Communication in schools has been the main concern for both my parents and myself. Our first couple of questions as we visited each school were, “can you adjust your teachings?”, or “are there instalments, equipment, and tools to help better my son/daughter’s learning?”. I was grateful for the help that was given to me from early Primary school all the way to year 12, it makes a huge difference and helps students better their learning and communication skills.
What hobbies do you have? Did you play a sport- tell us about it?
I have both swimming and art as my hobbies, I think they’re two very different activities but complement each other really well. At the moment, I’m training under isolation and studying for Year 12.
Swimming - I’ve been swimming since I was a toddler and have been racing for 8 years now. At the moment I hold a short-course World Deaf Record in the 50m Butterfly and right now, with all the COVID restrictions put into play, I just hope to race sometime soon.
Can you think of some challenges you faced at school, in public, at work or playing sport?
Yes, there’s been relatable challenges in which all deaf and hard hearing children faced as I have. Because listening isn’t as easy for hearing impaired students, I do tend to feel fatigued quicker than the other students and could sometimes take a quick re-energising nap during the lunch periods. I do get along really well with the teachers who wears the Mini Mic, but when it comes to group activity in class, where everyone talks on top of each other, I don’t get to understand a word they’re all saying, it becomes tedious and not worthwhile. The challenges I had at public areas very much improved over the years, with a new hearing feature where I can cancel out surround/background noises and be able to have a nice, comfortable conversation with the group. (I’m fitted with two nucleus 6’s, so it could be different compared to the older models)
What advice can you give young deaf and hard of hearing people who might be experiencing similar challenges?
Treat yourself like you are part of a big team in life, seek help and support others when you can. Acknowledge the fact that everyone else has their own set of difficulties/disadvantages, whether its family, mental health, disease, etc. Share the care and well-being that’s been given to you to everybody around you who needs it too.
Tell us about some of your dreams and future ambitions.
Dreams and future ambitions are my set goals, I prefer not to say what they are. But know to never be shy to give everything a go, whatever it may be.
What key message would you give parents who are starting out their journey with a deaf/hard of hearing child?
Give the child the chance to try as many new things as possible, my passion for competitive swimming clicked at age 10, so it will take time for the child to find his/her passion and make sure they’re having fun! Be creative. Take your child to do Drama classes, it helped me build both my vocal communication and gain confidence (Drama replaced my Speech pathology sessions). If you happen to know another language other than English, encourage them to learn a few words and maybe even some phrases. Again, be creative, the child or children will have more fun exploring the world of creativity.