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Born Deaf

Like everyone when starting a blog and choosing an opening line, it is difficult to know where to start but for me, it makes sense to start at the very start. A fun little fact about me is that I was born profoundly deaf bilaterally. As someone who has lived life determined not to let being deaf define who I am, I have never spoken or written about it before in such a public way and am nervous and excited to share this with you all. This is my story and I hope you enjoy it!


I have the best family and friends who have also never defined me as ‘the deaf one’ and have celebrated my hearing, laughed when I have misheard what they said (happens SO often), been incredibly patient as I ask them to repeat what they said for the fifth time and never made me feel any less than truly loved and accepted.


I truly cherish each day as I know just how easily my life could have differed if my parents had not chosen to take a leap of faith with brand new technology and accepted the opportunity for me to be implanted with a cochlear implant at 22 months and have the ability to hear.

When I was implanted, I was the youngest baby to be implanted at this time (for about two weeks) so it was such new technology and I have literally grown up with every single cochlear implant (I used to wear a crop top with the body pack against my back and now it is ALL behind the ear). It is so incredible that we live in a world now where babies are implanted even earlier and bilaterally and more and more advances are being made in this area every day. I was so lucky that my parents worked so hard in therapy with me that I am able to speak, hear and communicate really well. The first question I always get asked is if I know sign language which, I don’t and I feel like a bit of a fraud at times, but I was born into a hearing family and community, so it made the most sense for my family and I to focus on increasing my ability to speak and hear. I would still like to learn one day though. We don’t actually know why I was born deaf, but there are no known genetics in my family for this.


Captured by Will and Co


Talk to me:

When in conversations, I rely on lip reading to ‘round out’ what someone is saying, which is very handy when at a loud nightclub and trying to understand what my friends are saying! But this is why you might feel like I make a LOT of eye contact and don’t really look around when we talk. To this day I still remember and feel the pain when my mum walked headfirst into a stobie pole as we were walking and talking, so therefore looking at each other and not where we were going!


I need subtitles on all TV shows and struggle to understand lyrics to songs without seeing the words in front of me. I don’t wear my cochlear implant at night-time, which is wooooonderful for a good night sleep every night (I actually couldn’t tell you if Allan, my partner snores or not!!). Speaking of Allan, I am so lucky to have found the most patient partner who will repeat things for me upwards of five times and has been nothing but supportive of me. However, not wearing my cochlear implant at night is where I have gotten into a littttle bit of trouble in the past.



Not all firefighter scenarios are sexy…

I was living by myself for about 18 months when I had come home after a night out with my girlfriends, and I decided to have a shower and go to bed (thus meaning that I wouldn’t put my cochlear implant back on for the rest of the night). After my shower, I decided to make a cuppa tea. As I wouldn’t hear the kettle, I stood leaning against the kitchen counter and scrolled through Instagram with the kettle light in my line of sight so I could see when it flicked off. When standing here, the door to my apartment is positioned behind me. Nek minute….. I notice out of the opposite side of my vision, three large grown men in my apartment!!!! I jump clean out of my skin screaming bloody murder before I notice familiar uniforms. They were all wearing firemen suits!!!


I thought, shit, the buildings burning down, and they’ve come to save me! I indicated that I was deaf and told them that I would go get my cochlear implant. I ran to the bedroom and put it on to hear MY smoke alarm going off SO loud and soon discovered that I had somehow set the alarm off (steam from shower or spraying deodorant can)!! The firefighters were just so perplexed about the situation as they had apparently been knocking on my door and then calling out to me for a few minutes as they walked into the apartment, and I was just not responding AT ALL. They alluded that they thought I was seriously on something as they just couldn’t get my attention!


While I am lucky that I can laugh about this now, there have been several times that I have felt particularly vulnerable with my hearing and this was confronting, one of them. A huge worry for me is when we have children one day and while there are lots of incredible technology available (such as flashing lights and vibration detectors for when the baby is crying), I still worry about relying on technology so this has led to us to apply for a hearing dog, of which we have been APPROVED! So we are on the waitlist and will have a little fur baby to introduce to you all soon!


Are you really friends if you haven’t seen each other naked?

One other story that is hilarious to share but definitely highlights my deafness is when Kendie decided to visit to do EME work and I was in the shower, so Allan let her in but then he went back to what he was doing and left Kendie to find me. Just as Kendie messaged me to say that she was in the house and was checking that I knew she was there, I didn't hear this message come through and as timing would have it, opened the door to the bathroom stark naked right in front of her!!!



As a celebrant.

Growing up deaf, my parents encouraged me to do dance and drama lessons, to help with my speech and public speaking. I absolutely loved being on stage and in front of people which naturally led to me to saying a big fat YES when asked if I would be my friend's celebrant many years ago. While I love engaging and being in front of crowds, I do worry about being able to tell how the sound is for guests through my PA so will often rope a guest or two into helping me with my testing of the PA before the ceremony. This might be why I will be looking around a lot during the ceremony as I am trying to ascertain if people can hear and that there are no disturbances to the sound. If you have our amazing OTDC, Kendie present for your ceremony also, this makes me EVEN happier because she can then control all of this and I can eliminate that worry and focus on your ceremony.


While I get told a lot that I speak very well, I am still very conscious of my voice when I perform ceremonies which comes from being asked a lot ‘what accent do you have’, or ‘I can tell you have something, what is it’. Despite these, I am so proud of the ceremonies that I have been so humbled to be a part of and I really do strive to ensure that my couples get the best service possible. I truly believe I was meant to be a celebrant, the excitement I get at being a really special part of couples day is massive and will never fade!



Living to the fullest.

I am an open book and will try to ensure that everyone I engage with is aware of my hearing, so I am always here for any questions but I really have lived my life by not letting being deaf define me in any way. I consider myself so lucky for technology, family and friends as well as a truly accepting community. I have been able to live such a fulfilling life with my loves and careers and love to go out dancing- literally to the beat of my own drum as I am always out of time with the music!! While I say being deaf doesn’t define me, it is a part of me that I do love now and am proud of.



Highly recommend

If you get the chance, I recommend you watch Deaf U on Netflix, a docu-series that follows some young deaf and hard of hearing individuals as they navigate college in America. It is amazing to gain such incredible insight into their lives and there are some interesting views on the deaf/hearing communities shared. There is a group within the college that are referred to as ‘Elite’ as they have come from a long line of deaf or hard of hearing families and there is a strong theme about their disappointment of cochlear implant users, (referring to them as CI’s). I really connected with Cheyenna who has become an empowering influencer as she struggled to navigate merging the ‘Elite’/deaf and hearing communities. While I can understand that this is a very small and protected community with the introduction of technology, I don’t feel that this should place us into a different ‘category’. It is each and every family and individual’s decision as to how they want to live their life. As a society, we are so much more inclusive and don’t label as much but I would like to see this improved within the deaf and hearing communities.


If you are still reading this, thank you for coming this far! It is so special to feel excited to share with you all this, as I know that we have the absolute best community here at EME.


Love,


Jane

(EME Celebrant)


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