Share Your Story: Jesse
Jesse knows what it’s like to lose a pair of hearing aids. In fact, over the years, more than a few pairs have gone missing… perhaps down to his love of extreme sports, adventurous childhood, or simply forgetting to take them off before bed! Despite the missing aids, Jesse has never let his hearing loss slow him down.
Currently living in Warkworth, 27-year-old Jesse works as a fencer and is much more responsible for his hearing aids than he used to be. One thing that hasn’t changed though, is Jesse’s love for the outdoors. Surfing, skateboarding, snowboarding, and riding dirt bikes are just a few of his many passions.
“When I’m outdoors, it’s being able to switch off that I love. It’s just me and the board, doing my thing. I don’t have to worry about all the other stuff that’s going on. It was and is my best tool to be able to escape.”
Born with congenital hearing loss, Jesse’s condition wasn’t diagnosed until he was 3 years old.
“My parents discovered that something was off when I kept going up to the stereo speakers and putting my ear right against them. They took me to a doctor who diagnosed me with hearing loss. I had to have lots of tests until I finally got my first set of hearing aids at 4-years-old.”
Those hearing aids changed Jesse’s life.
“I remember being able to hear for the first time… it was a whole new buzz for me. I remember it like it was yesterday, that’s one thing that has always stuck with me.”
After receiving his hearing aids, Jesse’s speech development sped up. Being able to hear other children accelerated his language skills and it wasn’t long before Jesse could start school.
But for Jesse, school came with its own set of challenges. As the only student with a hearing aids, he struggled to fit in with the other kids. It wasn’t until high school that Jesse would regain his confidence and realise being different isn’t a bad thing.
“At school, I didn’t have any mates with hearing loss. I was the only one through primary and intermediate that was Deaf. It was a little bit difficult growing up. Especially in class not being able to hear… and being accepted into social groups. I guess it’s a typical school experience – not being able to fit in because you wear hearing aids, because you look different to everybody else.
As soon as I got to high school, I put my foot down though and decided that I was going to stick up for myself. That’s when I started making changes, and things began to get better pretty quickly… My confidence increased, my number of friends increased, and I realised I didn’t need to care about what anybody else thought. They lost that power over me.”
Having an outlet also helped. Jesse’s love for outdoor sports created a space where he could switch off and relax. He now enjoys the outdoor environment every day whilst working as a fencer. And rain or shine, Jesse has learnt to cope with having hearing aids on the job.
“I’ve consistently worn hearing aids since I was 4-years-old. I rely on them heavily. I wear them all the time - when I am at work, a friend’s place or just anywhere that requires me to hear. I find it too difficult to go out without them…”
“At work, communication is especially key, what with working around all the machinery. I have to be able to hear my colleagues and boss, so I always bring spares [spare hearing aid batteries].”
“I also have to protect my hearing aids from the weather. If it’s pissing down rain we just jump in the Ute, but if it’s raining normally, I keep a hat on my head to protect them.”
In fact, bringing spare batteries and taking care of his aids is something that Jesse makes a point of doing. Without them, social interactions can be incredibly difficult.
“I used to lose my hearing aids all the time! I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve lost them over the years, how many times I’ve broken them… I think I put my parents through hell with that while I was growing up…”
“Even now I’ve found myself in situations where I don’t have spare batteries on me while I’m out and straight away I’m thinking “oh shit”. I can’t hear, I can’t socialize, I start freaking out.
When I don’t have my hearing aids, I lose all my confidence and leave the situation
straight away. It’s hard.”
Jesse’s philosophy is to maintain a positive mindset, determined to not let anything, including his hearing loss, hold him back.
“I don’t really let anything impact me. In life, you can either choose to be a cry baby, sit there and do nothing about it, or you can make the choice to find the way through and turn it into something positive. That’s what I choose to do.
I choose to not let my hearing loss get to me. If something challenges me, I will challenge it back, and if I don’t know how to do something, I will learn it.”
Jesse encourages others to look for the positives as well, whether that’s to do with hearing loss or life in general. He left us with some solid advice for young people diagnosed with hearing loss.
“Reach out to an older person who has been through this experience, and just talk to them about it. It’s important to ask questions and be open about what you are going through. I think that’s the best thing you can do.
There’s not enough awareness about what hearing loss is like, we need people to be open and have those conversations.”
“Also don’t be an idiot – keep your hearing aids safe. That means put them in a case, somewhere you won’t lose, and keep them out of the weather.”
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: