After graduating high school in 2020, 19-year-old Claudia took six months off to see what life was like outside of the structure of a school environment.
Two years on and Claudia is in her second semester studying a Bachelor of Business and Property Economics at Queensland University of Technology (QUT). Whilst she isn’t 100 per cent sure where the study will lead, she knows the real estate field is calling.
Claudia’s profound hearing loss was diagnosed early, this was unusual for the time because it was before the universal newborn hearing screening program.
“I was considered an at-risk baby due to my older brother also being diagnosed with hearing loss, so they screened me early at birth – mum and dad knew pretty much straight away,” Claudia said.
“When my brother Darcy was diagnosed with hearing loss, my parents went to Australian Hearing (Hearing Australia) and were given a number of options, which is where Hear and Say really stood out. Mum said the family atmosphere and support she received from Hear and Say made this decision much easier,” she said.
“When the family had suspicions of Darcy’s hearing loss, they moved from Townsville to Brisbane, leaving their jobs and family behind to ensure they could give my brother, and eventually me, the best lives we could have.
Whilst it initially was an emotional time, Claudia’s diagnosis didn’t come as big of a shock for her parents, Tina and Matthew, who were familiar with the journey that lay ahead.
“Dad always tells me this story of when everyone was crying and when Darcy (four years old) walked into the room he asked, ‘What are you all crying about?’ and they said, ‘Claudia is deaf as well’ and Darcy said, ‘What’s the matter? I can hear, it doesn’t matter’”, Claudia recalls.
Claudia had surgery for her first cochlear implant on her right side at six months old, with her second implant two years later. At this time, it wasn’t standard practice to implant both sides at the same time.
“Over the years there have been lots of advancements with the processors, my first one was a box I had to wear with cords up that connected to the earpiece. Now it’s tiny and there is the ability to use Bluetooth to connect to your phone,” Claudia said.
Claudia attended both primary and high school with her friends, participated in sports and reflected fondly on her experiences.
“I was very lucky with schooling, I was able to go to mainstream schools and the teachers were great, they gave me support in areas that I needed. They knew I would sometimes struggle to hear in class so I would sit up the front and they’d ensure they talked facing the class rather than toward the whiteboard. I also had good friends that were understanding and didn’t really treat me any differently,” Claudia said.
“I was also able to do sports after school – I did hockey at school and club and it wasn’t really any different because I was deaf – it was as normal as it could be.”
Claudia noted that in today’s day and age, hearing is so important.
“The ability to hear connects us to the world, it’s often the way we build relationships with people,” Claudia said.
“Being able to communicate and have most of the same choices that everyone else has is very important to me. It would be hard to function every day without hearing, to make friends in the way that I have, to talk to my family and to tell my parents that I love them.”
Claudia came to Hear and Say’s Ashgrove Centre for four years for regular listening and spoken language therapy appointments, audiology and MAPping as well as group social skills programs where she saw other children with hearing loss and their families.
“Hear and Say has made a massive difference to both my life but also my family’s. My life and the possibilities for my future would look very different if it wasn’t for them and all the clinical support we’ve had along the way,” Claudia said.
“I’m extremely appreciative of my parents for the choices and sacrifices they have made to ensure that my brother and I could have the same opportunities as any other hearing child.
“The time and effort Hear and Say put into helping us to hear, listen and speak to me is something that I’ll never be able to properly thank them for.”