Day-to-day life can be exhausting for busy Kaitaia woman Renee.
She works up to 50 hours a week, and is constantly on high alert, trying to hear all that is happening around her, while managing with hearing loss in her right ear.
It requires her to be always concentrating, in case she misses something important in her health and safety role.
Yet she has still found the time and energy to study Environment Management, a year-long course assisted in part by a grant from the National Foundation for Deaf and Hard of Hearing. And it has proven to be a great motivator.
“The grant has really enabled me to study, actually it's probably more of a driving force,” she says. “Because you want to pass, because you've been given an opportunity.
There's times when I've just been like, ‘I'd rather be outside’ but because I've accepted this opportunity, I put a bit more into it. I am very appreciative of that.”
Renee used the grant to do online learning, because the classroom environment is too hard with her hearing loss.
“I have been working at the same time, so that is quite challenging because I probably wanted to finish the course in one year and still work 50 hours a week,” she says.
“I've actually enjoyed the work and I do like to continue learning, but at times that has been unnecessary stress.
“But the grant has been really good, because it has allowed me to study without fear of being isolated. I can have written discussions with other participants in the course.”
Renee was about two years old when her mother suspected there might be an issue with her hearing.
“My mum would pass me the phone to talk to my grandparents and I would just be talking to nothing, because I couldn't hear anything.”
Tests revealed she had no hearing in her right ear, and because she was young, Renee grew up with it being her normal.
“It's something I've had my whole life so I've never had to learn anything again. I was quite lucky that my speech wasn't impaired.”
She was never bullied at school, and remembers sitting towards the front of the classroom to hear things.
“It wasn’t a big deal, [my hearing loss] was discussed openly, which was always quite easy. There were still some difficulties though. Sometimes when I was playing sport the whistle would go off and I wouldn't hear it. I got sent off one game, because I carried on after the whistle had gone off quite a few times,” she says laughing.
“It can be challenging, you miss a lot of key details. In the office environment if I'm not facing the person, I do tend to struggle. I am in an open plan office, am deaf in my right ear and everyone sits to the right of me. So if I am not looking towards them, I don't really hear a lot. I find it frustrating sometimes because you can only say ‘Can please repeat it?’ so many times.”
Renee has been told that a herringbone implant could help her hearing, however at the moment the cost is prohibitive.
“My drive is to get young people to protect their hearing,” she says. “There's enough reasons to ruin your hearing – earbuds and listening to loud music. When you’re in your 40s you will start feeling the repercussions, so I am quite strong on advocating for hearing protection.”
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: