While hearing loss is most commonly considered a condition for the older population, youth hearing loss is actually becoming increasingly common across the world. Our parent company, Sonova, reports that approximately 660,000 children are born with significant hearing loss annually – 80% of which live in low-to-medium income countries.
But what is it like for a young person born into Australian society with hearing loss? While young Aussies are more likely to have access to resources and treatments than those in lower-income countries, youth hearing loss still presents quite a few challenges, comes with quite a few stigmas, and can feel incredibly isolating.
However, one of our community members – Olivia – has managed to keep an incredibly positive attitude through the course of her condition, which began when she was two years old. Reflecting on her experience as an adult, she now serves as inspiration for those within the hearing loss community and outside it.
Since as long as Olivia can remember, she’s had to approach life slightly differently to accommodate and overcome her hearing condition. She was born with sensorineural bilateral hearing loss, which was diagnosed at the ripe age of two years old. She’s struggled with mild-moderate hearing loss in her left ear and moderate-severe in her right, which has made hearing high-frequency sounds quite difficult her entire life. She’s worn bilateral hearing aids for most of her 20-something years on this earth and will soon receive a cochlear implant in her right ear.
In addition to suiting her up with hearing aids, Olivia’s family immersed her in speech and language therapy at a young age so she wouldn’t have to rely on sign language her entire life.
Once in school, Olivia continued to receive extra support with a dedicated speech pathologist and special circumstances around exams. She said this helped keep her anxiety at a manageable level and allowed her to excel in certain areas, like debating.
However, Olivia admitted her school experience wasn’t always easy – she hated being pulled out of class and feeling different from other students. But looking back on it years later, she says she’s “appreciative for the help and support I received from those professionals throughout my young life, and I feel it is time for me to return my appreciation by showing current children and parents how far I have come.”
For others suffering from hearing loss, she stressed the importance of staying involved in activities you’re passionate about, which for her meant sport and music. While both present challenges for those with hearing loss, Olivia found others to be supportive and accommodating during games and recitals (she played clarinet in the school orchestra). It’s that sense of support she wants to pass on to future generations of Australians with hearing loss.