Share Your Story: Naketa
Naketa is a bubbly 23-year-old, passionate about the arts, theatre and surfing. Naketa was also born Deaf and has a cochlear implant on her right side.
She’s open and honest about her experiences of growing up with a hearing disability.
While she’s completely Deaf without her cochlear implant, Naketa has fully adapted to the hearing world.
“I was raised hearing. I haven’t had anyone to connect with growing up with hearing loss…I’ve had to adapt.”
“I have a sister who is six years younger. She can always tell when I have my hearing aid off, she can hear the difference in my voice. She’s grown up with it. My whole family has become really good [at] speaking more clearly, so I can lip read,” explains Naketa.
Naketa’s deafness was discovered at just 18 months old. She received her cochlear implant at age 2.
Her parents were fierce advocates and provided her with every opportunity they could to succeed.
After discovering that the speech therapists in Auckland were trained by those in Sydney, they decided to move the family to Australia to give Naketa support of the best professionals, so she would be able to learn to speak with confidence.
However, they also wanted to give her a Kiwi upbringing, so the family moved back to small town Whakatane when Naketa was 5.
“I have snippets of memories from Australia, but most of my memories are in New Zealand.”
Naketa now lives with her partner and flat-mates. She is currently working as a co-manager at platypus, but when we spoke to her back in March, she was working in retail at Nike.
At times, she’ll walk around the flat without her cochlear implant on, which can result in some funny situations.
“One of my flatmates, we just always give each-other a fright. Since, I’m so quiet and can’t hear anything, and can’t hear her walking in.”
Passionate about the arts and acting, Naketa has a diploma in Arts and Theatre Studies from Waikato University. On Saturdays she acts in the Nui Ensemble, an emerging artist group which is a part of the Massive Theatre company.
Naketa is thankful to work alongside co-workers who take time to understand her hearing loss.
“My workmates are all very supportive of my hearing. They have a lot of respect for me,” she says.
“It’s very lucky. I’ve been in workplaces, where my co-workers would tease a little bit. That’s like…it just shows your maturity.”
Working in retail without full hearing does result in some annoying setbacks at times.
“When customers talk to me, but I can’t hear them, they think I’m ignoring them. I just don’t like it when they get annoyed. However, I’ve had customers come in, and I talk to them, and I won’t realise they’re Deaf. So, I understand it from both perspectives.
Sometimes people will talk to me on one side, and I’ll have to tell them to swap sides, because I only have the cochlear implant on one side,” says Naketa.
Also, learning to be proactive about keeping her cochlear implant powered up and ready has been a lesson of organisation.
“I have run out of battery during work once. My batteries lasted until half an hour before the end of the day, and there wasn’t time to get any more, so they just had me do work out the back.
It has made me more organised. If I forget to charge it overnight, I’ll just bring the charger with me to work and charge the alternative one.”
“Plus, if I go partying all night -- which doesn’t happen very often -- my batteries don’t last all night. So, I’ll have to take my charger with me.”
Upon reflection, Naketa has realised that maturity comes with age. When she was younger she found it a lot more difficult to accept her hearing loss, and the kids weren’t always kind.
“I found it harder with my hearing loss when I was younger, because it was the stage of life where I was adapting, and I didn’t fit in as much. I still had very good friends, and I am thankful for that.”
However, while her friends were supportive, she didn’t meet many who truly understood what she was going through.
“I only met one person in high school who had a cochlear implant, who I met through my teacher aid. I didn’t know anyone else. It was a very small town and there weren’t many people to connect with. “
As a teenager, Naketa discovered that cochlear implants aren’t accepted by all members of the Deaf community.
“I watched a documentary called Sound and Fury. It’s about an American family who were hearing and had a Deaf daughter, who married someone who was Deaf, and their child was also Deaf. The cochlear implant technology was coming in, and the hearing grandparents were supporting the idea of cochlear implants while the Deaf family was against it.
I was around 15 at the time, and I felt really emotional. I was thinking…wow, they just don’t accept the cochlear community.
At the time, I was thinking there was no cochlear community for me. That was what inspired me to start learning sign language. So, I know a little bit of sign language.”
Since watching the documentary, Naketa joined an NZSL course in Auckland and practices the language with her friends.
“I’m at the beginning stages of my sign language journey because I wasn’t exposed to it earlier on.
I have a hearing-impaired friend, and she said she’d taken her hearing aid out for six months. When we got together, I’d take mine out and we’d just sign together…we would lip-read, and she’d be able to let me know the signs that I needed.”
Since starting to learn NZSL, Naketa has begun to bring sign language into her workplace and connect with Deaf customers.
“It’s great, I’ll have customers come in who use sign, and I’ll try to sign to them. They will have so much respect for me, just when they see me trying. I also teach some of my staff at Nike some sign. I can do sentences, but not a full-on conversation.”
Whilst having a cochlear implant does mean that she faces unique challenges, there are also positive aspects to having one.
“When I had my old cochlear implant, I was able to play music loudly and block out all other sounds and I thought that was the coolest thing ever!”
“It’s mainly my silence that I love about it. I feel like I have also gotten some decent hearing, and my life would be so different without it. So, I’m definitely grateful... It has made me more grateful.
I feel if I had hearing, I wouldn’t be as grateful as I am today.”
Over time, Naketa has realised that finding her confidence has been hugely important for living an empowered life with hearing loss.
“Build your confidence. That’s definitely what I’ve had to do. And be organised.”
“If you can, try to surround yourself with good people. I also read a lot of self-help books out of curiosity and that’s really helped me through growing up and accepting my hearing loss.”
“Just definitely build your confidence, and eventually you will own 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: