Talking Hearing Awareness Month
We sit down with Lily McManus, our Youth Advocate, to talk about the importance of raising awareness for the experiences of hearing loss and hearing health in New Zealand.
What does Hearing Awareness Month mean to you?
It is very important to me, because I think there is a gap in people’s knowledge surrounding hearing loss, and Hearing Awareness Month is helping to fill that gap. There’s press and publicity. There’s all this stuff going on to draw attention to the cause.
I grew up in a time when there was not a lot of information available [about hearing loss]. Not many people even knew that young people could suffer from it. The more people out there who understand hearing loss…and how to accommodate us, the better.
I also think there has not been enough accessible information about noise-induced hearing loss in New Zealand…The way our society is heading...we are likely going to have a lot of noise-induced hearing loss and I don’t think people are really aware of that. Hearing Awareness Month has an important role in advocating for hearing health. It’s not just about people who are Deaf or hard of hearing. It’s about our whole population’s [hearing] health.
What are your thoughts about New Zealand’s current state of captioning?
I think New Zealand’s captioning is still bare minimum. The fact that it’s not available on all shows, or on all platforms, is ridiculous for me. Nobody should be disadvantaged or denied to media content that is accessible to everybody else just because of the way they were born. I think the selective system that New Zealand has going - like the news will have it but so many other shows won’t - is still very discriminatory towards people who are Deaf or hard of hearing.
You don’t want your hard of hearing friend to come over for a movie night and find that they can’t even participate, or for them to have anxiety about what film will be shown because not all the films are guaranteed to have captions.
I think more money and more effort still needs to be put in so that…content is accessible to everybody. I don’t want to watch their [the network's] specific shows that have captioning - I want to watch whatever show I want.
Why are you a champion for NFDHH’s Hearing Screening and Make Listening Safe Programmes in schools?
A big part of hearing loss is feeling like you’re missing stuff. It’s like there are pieces of the puzzle that you’re constantly missing. It’s a frustrating feeling.
My school didn’t have any system in place to check for hearing loss. It was just chance that I found out. A lot of people find out later in life through the weirdest scenarios. When, ideally, they should be finding out at the earliest stage possible.
I really would have preferred to have found out earlier. That way I could have started wearing hearing aids earlier and my brain could have adapted earlier. I wouldn’t have had to deal with so much embarrassment and shame if my hearing loss had been normalised from the get-go.
The later you leave it, the harder it gets. That’s why, it’s important to have these hearing checks in schools. To give kids a heads-up as early as possible.
Learn more about Hearing Awareness Month 2023, and how to get involved: www.nfd.org.nz/events