Hello! Can you hear me? My name is Kate Obermayer and Iím here to tell you a bit about myself and why Iím a mentor at Hear For You. What is Hear For You, may you ask? Itís a program that inspires deaf teenagers, run by adults who are deaf as well, who have managed to be, hopefully, pretty successful in life.
Now, whatís my story? Well, I was not born deaf. Weíre not 100% sure, but it was picked up when I was 11 years old and at that point I had a mild to moderate hearing loss which went Doo! Doo! Doo! Doo! Down! until I was profoundly deaf by the time I was 18. So what did I do? I wore hearing aids, but I was very embarrassed about it, so from sort of 13-14 I hid it.
At school I had a pretty hard time because even though I wasnít teased, it was difficult hiding a hearing loss. I grew my hair to here, and covered up my hearing aids, and only wore them every now and then. I didnít hear my name being called at school assembly, I sometimes couldnít hear the teachers in the classroom, I had trouble following group conversations. I became a very good lip reader!
So I always wished that Iíd had somebody I could look up to, whoíd had a hearing loss as well Ė somebody who had been successful, somebody who had been able to get a good job, go to uni, maybe meet somebody, get a boyfriend. I always thought Ďwho is going to love me if I have got a hearing loss?í Well, these are the things that Hear For You is trying to help you with.
So I would say in my life I have been pretty lucky. I learnt by trial and error how to deal with my deafness and I often think if only I had somebody who could teach me that, I wouldnít have had to go through all the difficulties and hardships, and that is what we (Hear For You) aim to do.
I studied Journalism at University, and then Interactive Multimedia at TAFE, and now, Iím an online content manager at a company called Zurich and I love my job, itís awesome! I am really pleased that I got to be someone like that. I am also married to a guy that has normal hearing and we have a six month old baby and I feel really happy now, so I feel like it is time to try and give back, and to try and help other teenagers that are in a similar situation to what I had.
So thatís really what Hear For You is all about. Thanks for that! Thatís all I have to say, just a little introduction to myself. Catch you later! Bye!
Interview with mentor David Brady
Hi! Iím David Brady. Iím a mentor for Hear for You. Iím actually deaf in both ears and wear hearing aids. I was born severly deaf and I come from a country town named Armadale.
David, why did you become a mentor for Hear For You?
I became a mentor when I latched on to an idea that Olivia had when I met her about 10 years ago Ė the concept of becoming a mentor to give guidance and advice to teenagers who are hearing impaired or deaf. Growing up it was something that we felt was lacking from our lives. We have a lot that we can share with these kids in terms of leadership, careers Ė all aspects of our lives.
Whatís your earliest memory of being deaf?
Thatís a really tough question because I was born deaf. For me, the earliest memory would probably me more of visual experiences for example probably learning the alphabet with my parents.
What was it like growing up deaf?
I was born in Armadale in northern NSW, a conservative country town. The population at the time was about 18,000 people. Life was pretty tough. I was part of a group of deaf and hearing impaired youngsters in Armadale, the youngest of the group by about 4 years. There was hardly anyone in my age group who was having the same experiences that I could share with. My life was difficult in terms of trying to integrate into society. It was more like me being thrown into the deep end and trying to swim out of it in order to grow my own identity.
What was school like for you?
School was hard. I had an interesting discussion the other day with a parent of a deaf child. It make me realise how I related to her child in terms of my own experiences at school. Being in primary school was fun Ė everyone didnít care whether you were hearing impaired or had one arm! Everyone just got on with it. It was mainly all about games.
When we became teenagers and started becoming a bit more self-aware, thatís when it got really tough at school. Of course I was picked on because I was different. Particularly in Armadale it was very obvious the difference was there.
The other thing I found was in classrooms, it was difficult to pick up what the teachers were saying, especially when we had group discussions. It just meant that I had to work about two or three times harder to achieve what I wanted to achieve.
Who did you lean on for support?
The main support unit was definitely my family, my parents, particularly my mother who was very proactive in getting assistance through other parents and people. My younger brother and sister Ė funnily enough, being the oldest, Iíve always seemed to be guided around by them, not the other way around! Itís a very interesting scenario, where you have your brother becoming your medium or your interpreter in life. I also had good support from the teachers, the school. My mother was a teacher and there is a good teaching network in Armadale and that sort of helped out with a lot of support.
Who inspired you while growing up?
Thatís a tough one, really tough one! There was lots of inspiration from different sources. One inspiration I had Ė there was this kid in Armadale I grew up with who was blind. I remember coming home one day from school really upset about my situation and I talked to my mother. I was really annoyed. My mother talked about this young man called Daniel who was blind and the way he was achieving in his life in Armadale and the fact that he had overcome many things. It was quite inspirational to look up to him even though he was a similar age, a couple of years older. It made me realise that other people were doing it tough. So it made me feel more of a ďLetís get on with it!Ē and focus on being the best you can be.
What are your two biggest achievements?
Again thatís a tough one because I have so many achievements Iím proud of! However, if I had to whittle it down to two that really stand out in my memory Ė one would be representing Australia in the Deaflympic Games in Melbourne in 2005 in water polo. The achievement was in the fact that I had only just started the sport, I had to train hard, the experience of being an athlete and then going to a cultural festival where I met people from all over the world. That was an amazing achievement.
The second achievement, I think, was getting my Masters from the University of Sheffield. Actually finishing a thesis, which is a book. That was definitely an achievement because I had to overcome a lot of situations in learning grammar in English and actually getting a proper publication was a really strong memory for me.
What has been your biggest obstacle and how did you overcome it?
The word Ďobstacleí is an interesting word. One of the biggest obstacles Iíve had to overcome is getting a job. It was trying to convince people that I could do just as well as the next candidate to put the application on paper. It was frustrating for me from time to time when I was looking for work. At one time I was out of work for six months looking for a job. I went to about 50 different interviews, trying to convince people to employ someone like myself.
Fortunately I found where I am now with Touch Football Australia, my current employer, who had faith in me to give me a go. I tell all employers out there, ďGive a hearing impaired or deaf person a go because you will be very surprised what they can achieve!Ē
What motto do you live your life by?
The one I live my life by the famous American deaf or hearing impaired actress, Marlee Maitlin who was quoted as saying that deafness is not in the ear; itís in the mind. I believe this is a strong motto to live by.
What do deaf teenagers get out of the Hear For You program?
For a start, you get me! But they also get to have an insight into the rich experiences of mentors like myself and all the other mentors we have on our program and a great opportunity to be involved and pick our brains. They can answer questions they might have when we were their age and I believe thatís a real benefit to teenagers involved in the program. Because there are a lot of questions and they are sitting at the back of your mind and the great benefit is someone like myself or if not myself, one of the other mentors being able to provide you with guidance and suggestions to be able to achieve what you want to achieve.
What is your favourite story for Hear For You?
To be honest, I have quite a few actually. They are too numerous to say the achievements of the mentees who have grown and gained confidence having sought the answers the guidance from myself and my fellow mentors. My age group are Year 11s and 12s with Kate Locke. I think the best story I have was one of our mentees met the Opposition Leader during the election time. He was close to being Prime Minister. I thought that was really inspiring that someone actually had the courage and conviction to contact Tony Abbott and have a conversation with him. Thatís one of my favourite stories.
What do you hope to achieve for Hear For You?
Personally, I believe we have achieved a lot for Hear For You. It has definitely gained the benchmark moving forward to what I believe could be a program expanded around the whole country as well as New Zealand and other parts of the Asia Pacific region. I see Hear For You as a great opportunity for young hearing impaired Australians linking in with other deaf and hearing impaired Australians who have had similar experiences at their age to be able to share and to build a stronger and richer future for everyone involved.
What do the next 12 months hold for you?
The next 12 months are going to be very busy for me. Iím doing a lot at work. I happen to be the Business Operations Manager for Touch Football Australia. Weíve got some big programs coming up for the sport in the professional sense. Iíve also jumped onto the Deafness Forum board of Australia. Iíve got a strong mission to ensure that the hearing health bill will go through the current Gillard government. It will be really hard to try and lobby that for the benefit of the hearing impaired throughout the whole of Australia and Iíve got a really strong belief that the hearing health in Australia could be improved. Also I see myself as working a bit more for Hear For You to gain more opportunities and do some fundraising so we can expand the programs and also to professionalise the support for the organisation. There are a lot of things that are going to happen.
Also in my personal life there are a lot of things happening as well so Iím really excited about whatís going to happen in the next 12 months. I really look forward to 12 months time when I can sit back and say ďWow!Ē
If you could change one decision, what would that be?
Thatís a tough one. I have a philosophy in life that you just take every moment and opportunity as it comes to you. If you miss Ďem, then there will always be an opportunity to go back and grab Ďem. Thatís not a moment going back in time, thatís moving forward and being more proactive. Itís actually stepping up to the plate and also taking information to do what you want to do. I donít regret anything that happened to me in my life and my hearing impairment. Itís actually enriched my life quite a lot. Itís actually provided me with a lot more opportunities that I probably would never have experienced. There were times that I could have changed things; I kept thinking that things could be better. But then again, weíve just got to take every opportunity weíve got while we are alive and move forward.
You wear hearing aids?
Yeah, Iíve worn hearing aids pretty much since day one Ė the box hearing aids! And Iím actually really lucky to have an audiogram that is like a U shape a smiley gram where the hearing aid technology enables me to hear and experience as much as anyone with hearing impairment with a cochlear implant. I have considered a cochlear implant from time to time, but I have sought the advice of my audiologist and got a second opinion and Iíve been encouraged to go with a new and better brand of hearing aids. Technology is continually evolving. I am on my 20th version and every time that Iíve had new hearing aids my life has definitely improved.
My advice to parents and hearing impaired people who are considering cochlear implants or hearing aids, make sure you see a health professional, an audiologist and get a couple of opinions and find out whatís best for you because it is a personal thing.
I wish you all the very best.
Interview with mentor Nick Doyle
Hear For You, inspiring young deaf people
Tell us a bit about yourself!
Okay, well, my name is Nick Doyle, I'm actually English and I moved to Australia just over four years ago. I'm currently living in Melbourne so that's why I travel over to Sydney for the Hear For You workshops. I'm married to my wife Joanne and we have a baby daughter, Isabella who's ten months old.
What made you become a Hear For You mentor?
Well, actually a friend of one of the other mentors Dave Brady, who was working in Melbourne at the time. He was introduced through a mutual friend and then Dave introduced me to Olivia at what might have been his birthday dinner I think it was. And then we got talking at the dinner and it just went on from there. Olivia asked me if I was interested in becoming a mentor and it just went on from there.
Were you born deaf?
I can confirm that, yes, because they diagnosed me when I was about three months old that I was deaf. There's no real reason really, it's one of two choices. I was born in the 1970s which makes me fairly old. I think that my mum may have been exposed to the Rubella scare at the time; either that or I was born with severe jaundice which can cause deafness and later on you know, so I was three months old you know, I was diagnosed that I was deaf.
What was your earliest memory of being deaf?
Oh, well I would probably be about three or maybe four. Back in those days we used to wear hearing aid boxes that used to get strapped onto your chest so it's a bit like those days when you go to see a laser and you wear those straps around your chest, it's a bit like that and the teacher would wear a microphone and youíd link up to that. We would have not the actual hearing aids itself, but just the ear plugs or the ear mould. They would fit and youíd have wires that would come down to the box itself. So if you would go to a museum you might just find it in there.
What was it like for you growing up deaf?
I think probably when I was a lot younger in the early days, I'd probably say I was pretty much the same as the person next to me, a hearing person that is. I don't really recall any struggles or anything like that. I think maybe later in life, especially when you come to high school, I think that's probably where the main struggles really start - being able to understand the teacher in the classroom, being in a large group of people, in meetings and things like that. That's probably where it was hardest for me.
What was school like for you?
Well I actually loved school in the earlier days. When I was about 11, 12, 13, I used to work fairly hard and used to do quite well in classes. During that time as I got older, the only outside help I had was they'd visit me less frequently so that was probably the one outside help that I used to have. And as I got older they were probably thinking I was coping more and you know I never spoke up for myself saying, "Yes, I do need help" which where I think it's important that Hear For You comes in.
So later on in school I think, you know it was hard to understand. Even though I would make sure that I would sit at the front of the class, I would always ask the teacher to make sure that they face the class. You know you can only ask them once. If they keep doing it, you become fairly disruptive in class. And you don't want to because I'm always trying to think of other people. So I tended to, you know, quieten down a bit and maybe not speak up for myself. I guess I wish I had now, maybe ask the teachers for more help because I'm pretty sure they would have been more than willing to you know give me that extra time to help me. But I wish I did ask, but I didn't.
What would you recommend to a young person who is thinking of giving up school because they are finding it hard to keep up?
For me when I was in school, I think one of the biggest regrets was not actually asking the teacher for help. I think they were more than willing to do so. I'd actually say to -- you know, don't be afraid to speak up. No one will laugh at you, if you think they might do. But even if they do, you know, don't worry about it. You know, they're only 14, 15. Five, ten years time, you know, everyone's attitudes will change, you know, I reckon those people will probably look back on their school years and think that how strong that person was for speaking up that time and asking for help, especially if you are deaf or hard of hearing. You know, it's okay to ask for that extra help. And I guess I wish I did that.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a professional cricket player, but unfortunately I wasn't good enough. So I became an accountant. I didn't go to university which is probably one of the normal ways of getting a degree and going into Accounting. I left school at the age of 17 after my A Levels and then I got a job with a small firm of solicitors in the accounts department. So I built up my experience there and gained some confidence to go for my second job at a much larger firm. And I went into the city in London and I worked for a very large American law firm and I stayed with them for ten years before I moved to Australia. And in that time I worked my way up to the Accounting Control Manager and so with that went a lot of responsibility. And I had to work my way up during my time there and so that's what I ended up doing, becoming an accountant.
Who did you lean on for support?
I can't really think of anyone to be honest, no one comes to mind. Probably the family, Mum and Dad and my older brother are probably the one that comes to mind about going to for support. At school or things like that, you know you have your favourite teachers, the ones you can confide in. But normally if you've got form tutors, they're not really the teachers of the subjects that I was taking so it's a little bit different like that. And then yeah, I just really got on with it really.
What are your two greatest achievements?
On a personal level, I guess that would be when my daughter Isabella was born, one of the proudest moments of my life and something I will remember forever. On another level, probably my sporting achievements - representing England at deaf rugby and deaf cricket, so that was my best achievement I think.
What has been your biggest obstacle and how did you overcome it?
I guess the biggest obstacle in life for me so far is when trying to get a job. Luckily for me, back home in England, I stayed with the one company for ten years and built up my career that way. And of course, it was a big change for me to move to Australia and obviously to persuade people to give me a job and the biggest obstacle for me then was to change their perception of someone who is deaf or hard of hearing what my capabilities were and my abilities to do the job. It was like hitting your head against a brick wall half the time, so I just needed the opportunity to explain to them that I can do this and I always asked them for especially the recruitment people, I always asked them if I could meet them face to face. And more times I was unsuccessful in getting to meet them face to face. But those that I did, I could always see their reaction of genuine surprise how I come across when I do meet them. And so, yes I guess it's I guess it's trying to persuade them and say, ďPlease meet me first before you decide to you know, not put me forward for this jobĒ and so that's how I did that.
What motto do you live your life by?
No real motto comes to mind except that I just get on with it really, just go with the flow. I'm a fairly easy, laid back kind of person but do that the serious stuff seriously so I just sort of live for the moment, live in the now, really.
What do deaf teenagers get out of being involved in the Hear For You Programs?
Well, obviously, they have to come out to the workshops themselves to find out what it's like, but to give a brief summary, I think one of the major things is that we get to share our experiences of growing up with the kids that come along. Hopefully they will see you know, that they're experiencing the same thing and whilst you know we can learn from mistakes -- not mistakes but we learn from obstacles what's happened and overtime especially with age and experience and having a career, your confidence builds up.
So what we're saying is you don't need to wait until you're in your 20ís and your 30ís to do that, you can do that now when you're at school. Give them that confidence to speak up, give them ideas on how to overcome obstacles. We're not telling them what to do. We are just showing them that there are options out there. They don't have to take the option that they're told to do or what other people think is best for them. What they don't realise is that there are plenty of options out there for them. I think really just trying to open up their eyes for what's out there for them. That's one of the things they can get.
Can you tell us one of your favourite stories of how a teenager's life has been impacted as a result of Hear For You?
Yeah, I think there's quite a few to choose from. The one that stands out for me is one of the guys who came along actually became a school prefect not long after he attended our workshop. He never in a million years thought about becoming a prefect until he was encouraged through our workshop to stand up for what he believe in and that gave him some confidence. And it was a very nice surprise to hear not long after our very first workshop that we did that he became a school prefect, so that's probably the best story so far.
Whatís in store for you over the next six months?
On a personal level, just becoming a stay at home dad and looking out for my daughter Isabella. My wife's gone back to work full-time. I've been doing it for a month now so it's been a real challenge, one that I've enjoyed immensely. So probably do that for maybe six months to a year to see how that goes. From a Hear For You angle, we've got a lot going on behind the scenes, so we're looking to expand Hear For You. I'm looking to bring it out to Victoria and to Melbourne as well and maybe to Queensland. So, it's slow progress but I've been getting more involved and hopefully setting up the Victoria branch of Hear For You.