If you are curious about how it might feel to be hearing impaired, this YouTube stimulation is a good reference.
For Maddy Cremades, people with hearing impairment are no different to anyone else. Born profoundly deaf, Maddy has lived an independent life with the aid of a cochlear implant.
In fact, Maddy’s life might be more adventurous than the average. Maddy enjoys activities such as motorbike riding, go-karting, and hiking. And when Maddy is not sweating it out at the local F45 gym, she’s rescuing cats and dogs.
“I rescued a Staffy cross who was a tough princess and two gorgeous but stubborn queens – I mean cats.”
According to Connect Hearing Australia, 1 in 6 Australians experience hearing loss, with over 3.55 million Australians living with hearing loss reported in a 2015 study. Additionally, approximately 1 in 5 Australians who could benefit from hearing aids, or a cochlear implant, have chosen to do so.
This is significant as it is reported that people with untreated hearing loss are likely to earn on average $10,000 less than people without it. Plus, they are 25% less likely to earn a high income and more likely to be unemployed, underemployed, or retire early.
Equally significant, if not more so, are the social impacts – hearing impairment can limit a person’s ability to communicate, reducing social interactions, and thus increasing the risks of depression and anxiety.
For Maddy Cremades, she was fortunate to have proactive parents.
“My mum did a lot of research to see if the cochlear implant was the best option for me and spoke to a lot of hearing-impaired adults and experts in education. The implant changed my life, for the better. I am so grateful that my parents helped make this happen for me.”
A cochlear implant allowed Maddy to attend mainstream schools and make friends with hearing people. Today, Maddy holds a full-time job in state government and studies part-time at Curtin University.
I interviewed Maddy about her studies, her goals, and general advice she could give to fellow students and people with disabilities.
What are you studying at university? And what is your current year of study?
I’m studying Bachelor of Psychology part time as I am working full time. I am currently doing the last of 2nd year units.
Did hearing impairment play a role in your course choice?
Yes and no. I was always interested in psychology but never thought about studying it. I also wanted to progress in my career, but it was highly desirable to have a degree under my belt. While it was not essential as a person with a hearing impairment, I felt that I needed to have a degree on my CV to give myself the best chance. So, when I wanted to get a degree, choosing psychology was a no-brainer.
Do you have any intentions of working in a field related to hearing?
Not directly. One of my career goals is to become a policy officer specialising in areas for people with disability, to give them a best chance in life and to change communities to be as inclusive as possible. I am halfway there!
What are some of your hopes and dreams for the future?
To be a policy officer in government involved in making positive changes for people with disability.
I hope that more people are becoming accepting and inclusive of people with disability by learning that we are not ‘different’. We may need extra supports but we all want to be treated respectfully and equally.
What sort of support and help have you received at Curtin University with being hearing impaired?
The Student Guild has an accessibility department which represents students who have disability at Curtin University. Being part of this department means that I feel included and seen as a student at Curtin. The department also shares resources that are relevant for us, making it easier for us to navigate our way through University and its challenges.
Would you like to give advice to fellow students?
One of the biggest barriers I have experienced in navigating my way through school, University, and other aspects of my life, are other peoples’ attitudes and expectations. I have overcome a lot of challenges and have a lot of abilities. The specialist I saw when I was two years old told my mother that I would never speak, in his ‘expert’ opinion. How wrong he was. The point of telling this is to not let other people (or anything else) stop you if you know what you want.
Hang in there and persevere, and hard work will be rewarded.
Don’t be afraid to get to know people, regardless of their difference such as disability, age, race, or sexuality. We all share a common goal, to complete a degree at University. Ask questions if you are unsure how to interact with a person with disability, most of us will let you know what we need. Lastly but not least, try not to believe in stereotypes as most of them are not true and can be very hurtful.