“I love being able to hear and wouldn’t have it any other way. I’ve always felt and believed that my disability doesn’t define me, it’s only a part of me, and has contributed to who I am today.” – Ruby, 19 years old.
Ruby is the oldest of three, studying a diploma of photography and photo imaging and has a myriad of creative hobbies.
“I love cooking, especially baking, it brings me so much joy. I love creating my own recipes and learning about different cuisines,” said Ruby.
“One of my main hobbies is photography, it’s one of my favourite things to do. I love the creativity and fun of it, the different ways I can use my lighting, perspective and focus on the smaller things in life.”
Ruby was born before the Universal Newborn Hearing Screening was implemented and was diagnosed with profound hearing loss at six months old.
“My parents often tell this story as one of the most important and life-changing memories they’ve had,” said Ruby.
“When I was six months old they came into my bedroom, I was sitting up in my cot facing away from them. They came in all excited to see me but when I didn’t turn around to their calls they knew something wasn’t right,” she said.
“My parents went to multiple specialists and GPs and it was when Dr Dimity Dornan AO called that our lives changed forever. Dimity told them that it was possible for me to hear and to learn to listen and speak. My parents met with Dimity later and never turned back.”
By the time Ruby was one year old she was learning to listen through her cochlear implant on her right side. At this time babies with hearing loss on both sides only received one cochlear implant. As further research came out about the benefits of hearing through both ears, this process changed. When Ruby was four years old she got a cochlear implant on her left side too.
“Today I go to Hear and Say every six months for a new program for my cochlear implants and every 12 months for assessments,” said Ruby.
“As a young kid I attended Hear and Say’s playgroup where I met amazing friends who are just like me. We built a wonderful friendship group, and this is something I will have forever.
“Hear and Say also had the most amazing opportunities to attend workshops for all ages in the school holidays. I cannot recommend these workshops enough, they have helped me grow as a person, meet new people, and build tighter bonds with the friends I made through these workshops.
Looking back on her school experience Ruby says it wasn’t always easy but is thankful for the people who helped her along the way.
“Despite having bilateral cochlear implants, I still struggled at school. It was huge, doing six hours a day of non-stop listening, concentrating, socialising, and trying to ensure I didn’t miss anything,” said Ruby.
“I struggled with friends and feeling like I didn’t totally fit in, it was hard to keep up with conversations in a busy playground or in a noisy classroom with lots of people talking at once,” she said.
“Although these were challenges, there were more highs than lows and I had the most amazing teachers who did everything they could to help me.
“The most important thing I did was to introduce myself to my teachers and explain my hearing loss, the challenges I go through and strategies to help me,” said Ruby.
From the classroom to the stage, to the pool – Ruby was right there with her siblings and friends.
“As a kid I did dancing, including ballet and jazz and I absolutely loved it,” said Ruby.
“I also really enjoyed swimming and did it for a long time. When the aqua ear came out, I loved it even more, hearing the water move as I did each stroke. When I first tried this new accessory that allowed me to wear my cochlear implant in the water, I distinctly remember saying to dad, ‘the water has sound! I can hear the water!’.”
After reflecting on her journey so far there are many things that continue to amaze Ruby, like her ability to pop on her cochlear implant processer and hear the world, or the fact that all those years ago her parents received a life-changing phone call.
“I don’t know where I would be today if Dimity hadn’t called my parents or created such an incredible foundation for kids to have every opportunity they deserve,” she said.
Looking ahead, Ruby shares her advice to parents who have just found out their baby has a hearing loss.
“This new chapter is a tough and scary beginning but there are so many opportunities you can create for your child. They do have the ability to learn to listen and speak, go to their local school, make friends and be a kid,” said Ruby
“They can be anyone they want to be.”