12 November 2020 – Resha Bhana is ready to find herself a job having overcome teasing and a lack of confidence caused by hearing loss in both ears.
The 23-year-old Taranaki horticulture student hopes her love of tramping, gardening, crafts and baking make her an employable option but until then she will continue to visit Life Unlimited’s Hearing Therapy service to maintain her personal hearing improvement journey.
Resha regularly sees hearing therapist Melita Peselj at Life Unlimited’s clinic in Hawera Ministry of Social Development’s Union Street premises. The two are working on building Resha’s confidence in social situations and talking on the telephone. Getting those skills will make finding a job easier, says Melita.
Resha’s hearing loss was identified when she was a baby and from then on, she had two hearing aids to help.
But she was unable to hear things like the birds “squeaking” (as she puts it) or clocks tick tocking.
Her primary school years at Turuturu School in Hawera were made easier by Resha’s determination not to feel different.
“I put myself out there and forgot I had a hearing loss and just tried to be like other people.”
It was when she left that school for intermediate that Resha experienced some teasing from other pupils who mocked the way she spoke.
“I couldn’t say half the words, but I just ignored it. I had my teacher aide helping me with my schoolwork and with phrasing my words and everything. Half the time it was good, half of the time it wasn’t that good,” she said.
While at intermediate she had a cochlear implant, a surgically implanted electronic device, inserted in her left ear. Cochlear implants provide a sense of sound to a person who is severely hard of hearing or profoundly deaf. They are provided to people who have found little or no significant benefit of having a hearing aid.
The teasing continued into high school but not as bad.
“I just ignored the people who were teasing me and just trying to blend in with the other people. The implant made a big change. My teacher wore an FM microphone and I could hear it through my hearing aid. I could hear clearer, focus on my schoolwork and get my grades up.”
Socially, there were ups and downs.
“If I was in a group of friends, if they were all talking at the same time, I didn’t really pick up what they were talking about. My close friends knew I had a hearing impairment and they would talk to me one at a time.”
It was while she was studying in Wellington that Resha got a timely reminder she needed more help.
“If I take my hearing aid and cochlear off, I can’t hear anything so I was a bit paranoid about sleeping in in case I did not hear the fire alarms when they went off, so I slept with them in.”
She approached the Southern Cochlear Implant Programme for advice. The organisation, a registered charity, aims to improve the lives of those who have had cochlear implants.
They recommended an assessment for a smoke alerting system (as she could not hear the conventional smoke alarms) and referred her to Life Unlimited’s free Ministry of Health-funded Hearing Therapy service.
Hearing therapists, based all around New Zealand, provide free hearing assessments, information, hearing tests and support to New Zealand citizens and permanent residents 16 years and over.
By then Resha was back living in Hawera so her first appointment was with Melita. Her alarm is connected to a bed shaker that would wake her if there was a fire. She also has an alarm clock that is connected to the system that can wake her.
“If I’m sleeping, at least I’m able to be woken. I use the alarm for the morning, I use it all the time. It really wakes me up, it’s like an earthquake. I feel like it’s a life changer to be honest, I take it everywhere.”
Melita is also helping her to be more approachable in social situations and teaching her telephone skills.
“I’m learning to talk on the phone without Mum and Dad’s help and support.”
Resha and Melita are regularly going to the bank and to cafes, something which was unthinkable several months ago. It is all part of the plan to be comfortable with other people rather than be isolated.
Resha is also doing a correspondence horticulture course and recently got an A+.
“I want to have a degree to put on my CV,” she says.
“I’m ready now to find a job and Melita is helping me with my goals. I like walking, tramping, crafting, baking and gardening. There will be something out there for me.”
Melita says she is proud of Resha’s improvement and is happy to provide a reference to any potential employers.
“Resha does not give up, she just puts adversity behind her and gets on with things. There is a lot to commend her and I’m sure there’s something out there for her.”