19-year-old Jackson was the recipient of our Noonan Bequest scholarship in 2021. We recently caught up with him to find out how his study has been going and to learn a little more about his hearing loss journey.
Jackson and his mum were researching scholarships online when they found NFDHH’s Noonan Bequest Scholarship.
“We came across this one and it was perfect. I felt like I really fit the criteria, I guess. Because, you know, being obviously, Deaf and yeah we went from there.”
“Receiving the scholarship has had a massive influence on how well I've done this year.”
“I’m studying a Bachelor of Commerce at Otago University and so I used the money to buy a computer, which has really helped. I think nowadays, especially at university you really need a laptop, and with COVID as well, it’s so important. In my second semester, all [university] classes were done online, and just having access to a quality computer really helped me. And all the exams were done online too. So yeah, it was super helpful.”
Having a laptop has also enabled Jackson to easily watch lectures online, which he has found particularly useful with his hearing loss.
“It’s so great now how our lectures are all recorded so if I miss something [because I am unable to hear], I’ll just write down the time and then can easily go back and look at it later.”
Jackson was diagnosed with hearing loss in primary school and received his first pair of hearing aids when he was seven years old.
“My mom's Deaf so we got tested pretty early [for hearing loss].”
“My hearing loss has always been an issue for me. Back in primary school, I had to use the old FM system. It was definitely a bit of a hassle, you know, having to go give it to the teacher [before your class]. A couple of times she even drove home with it!”
“I got hearing aids around Year 3 of primary school and have had them ever since which has been good.”
Despite not having any friends at school with hearing loss, Jackson was grateful that his Mum and younger sister could understand what he was going through.
“My mum and my sister both have hearing loss… Mum has always been so helpful with organizing everything – you know, getting hearing tests and getting my new hearing aids. Even just to like talk to her about what I’m going through as well, she’s always interested to see how I’m doing with my hearing and gets it because of her own loss.”
In fact, his family are one of the reasons that Jackson is so open with his own hearing loss.
“I’ve always been open with my hearing loss. I bring it up to people and let them know that I have a hearing issue. At work sometimes people can get frustrated about it, but I’m not too bothered by it – it’s nothing I can control so yeah.
… I don't think anyone thinks anything differently of me because of it. There might have been a few jokes about it at primary school, but no one really cares that stuff anyway.”
“I've always been thick-skinned so [mean comments] haven’t bothered me. I can definitely understand why a lot of people would feel uncomfortable wearing hearing aids out and about and stuff though. Especially at a younger age it could be pretty daunting, but I feel like at the age I'm at now I could wear them around and I don’t think anyone would say anything about it or bully me for it.”
At times, it can be frustrating getting others to repeat themselves…
“Yeah, it's definitely a big hassle. When I'm not wearing [my hearing aids] as well, it’s difficult. Especially having to re-ask people sometimes, like, “Hey, can you say that again?”. Sometimes I even end up asking two times and then people go, don't worry about it. That stuff can be rather frustrating, because it's like, you know, I clearly want to hear what you are saying and you just can’t be bothered anymore. I get annoyed by it.
I can understand, like, you know, you don't want to repeat yourself, like four or five times, but STILL…
…That's probably the one thing that can grind my gears a little bit.”
“Hearing loss also meant that at school and even now in lectures you just have to always sit front of the class and stuff… You know, be closer to people when you’re talking to them. It’s just the little things where you do need to put in that bit more effort and be wary of it.”
“And at work now people wear face masks which makes it really difficult to hear people. With lip-reading, you can kind of guess what people are saying but with face masks, it's really difficult to, you know, hear what they're saying and things like that.”
…but Jackson doesn’t let his hearing loss hold him back…
“Sometimes I do feel frustrated because you feel like you’re missing out a little bit, but I try not to let [my hearing loss] get me down. You know, I tell myself that it’s something I can’t control and that helps.”
“I've always been a pretty active person too. I'd like to think that I wouldn't, let something like that stop me from doing things.
I didn’t choose to be Deaf… so I guess you just need to play it as it is.”
… and chooses to focus on what he has gained.
“In primary school, I got to do all these fun activities with other Deaf people which was really cool. Sometimes we would get to leave school early and go bowling or activities like that – it was awesome! At my primary school, I was the only Deaf person, and I used the FM system and stuff, and a lot of the time I felt like an individual… so it was really nice to be surrounded by people who were the same as me.”
“It's also helped me be more loud and clear because I know what it’s like when you can’t hear. Which has had a positive impact on me.”
“The Bluetooth functions of my hearing aids as well. Definitely an advantage…”
He’d like other teenagers going through a hearing loss diagnosis to try and focus on the positives because hearing loss is just a fact of life that can’t be changed.
“Just because you are Deaf, don’t take that out on yourself. It’s something you can’t control and you’re not at fault for it.
And when you do get people who are snarky, don’t bother with them. If other people are bringing you down for your hearing loss try not to let it get to you.”
“It’s also really great to see more schools teaching sign language. I remember in intermediate we had two weeks of learning sign language. Basic stuff like your name, how to say hello, goodbye etc. And it just normalizes it [sign language] and means other people that aren't Deaf or don't know anyone Deaf, are aware of it.”
In our Share Your Story series, Deaf and hard of hearing New Zealanders open up about their experiences.
Stay tuned for more interviews, which will soon be released to our blog: