Meet Leanna currently completing a Bachelor of Nursing at Memorial University and convocating in Spring 2015. Leanna was born profoundly deaf in both ears and wore hearing aids up until the age of 7. She then traveled to Ottawa to be implanted with a cochlear implant on her right side because at the time, the surgery was not yet available in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Leanna’s cochlear implant opened the door for many opportunities at school, being able to listen to music, communicate with family and friends, and do the things that she enjoys in life. She wears her implant daily and acknowledges that it is a very important part of her life!
“I think that I always knew that I wanted a career in the health care field and I always had some ideas such as Audiology, or Nursing or Medicine. I decided that I would try Nursing because I knew that I would graduate and be able to go to work, as well I always wanted a career that was interesting, provided many different career opportunities where I could travel anywhere in the world and work”.
Due to her hearing loss, Leanna is unable to use a regular stethoscope that you can put in your ears to listen to things like pulses, heart sounds and lung sounds, an important tool for a Nursing student and for her career as a Registered Nurse. Leanna has her own modified stethoscope that transmits sounds electronically, and instead of the ear pieces, Leanna listens with a headset.
“I have accepted that I will always be the Nurse who looks like she’s listening to music and have found the humour in this. I know my patients and their families get a kick out of it and my classmates love to use it as well. You would never think that something as simple as a modified stethoscope would mean the world to me but this technology allows me to do what I love, as well as effectively take care of my patients”.
The health care field is a very fast paced, noisy environment and Leanna says this has made her much more aware of her communication skills.
“I have had to take a lot of initiative in making sure others are aware that I have some challenges with my hearing. I find in doing this, not only do I communicate better but I have noticed that other people who work with me are more cognizant of their communication skills with me and with others. Also, I feel that I am more in tune to my environment because I need to be more aware of what is going on around me to compensate for my hearing. I am always thinking ahead, and I rely on my other senses a lot as well as my gut feeling and this helps me when working with my patients”.
As someone who has experienced hearing loss since birth, Leanna says she can’t begin to imagine what a scary thing it is to experience some, or total hearing loss, later in life. Leanna says she does not necessarily feel that she has experienced a “loss” because this has always been her life and she has never known any difference. She says “I can appreciate how challenging and scary it must be to have this major change in your life and my first piece of advice would be to tell people that they’re not alone. Do not isolate yourself. There are many things that you can do such as see an Audiologist, come to the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association – Newfoundland and Labrador (CHHA-NL) and there are so many people who are willing to walk you through these new changes and to help you”.
Leanna has been involved with the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association – Newfoundland and Labrador (CHHA-NL) for many years. “I have been a client, a volunteer, an employee, a friend and the staff and volunteers all have a way of making you feel like family”. Leanna is a member of the CHHA-NL Board of Directors and has held various positions on the Board for the past 5 years, including her current position as Secretary.
“CHHA-NL has had a huge impact on my life because not only has it helped me be proud of who I am it has also helped me to learn to embrace my hearing loss. It has given me confidence I never thought I could have and has made me feel that I am not alone in my journey through life as a person with a hearing loss”.
Leanna states that in her opinion, people with hearing loss can do everything that people with perfect hearing can do, but sometimes it might just need to be done a little bit differently. She understands that it can be easy to be discouraged and that everyone has bad days. Leanna says, “I’ve had many myself and sometimes you just feel like your hearing loss just gets in the way of everything. However, it’s the many good days that has made me realize that I can do this, and to just not give up. It is important to remember there is a solution to everything and with a bit of hard work and determination (and just sheer stubbornness on my part) that anything is possible”.
“I would just like to add that as a person with a hearing loss or any type of disability for that matter, it is important not to let it define you or your life. I am a PERSON with a hearing loss, and while it has a big effect on my life it does not influence my own personal goals, aspirations and dreams. I won’t deny that it has helped shape who I am and it has given me more opportunities than I can count and for that I am thankful. I think we all need to embrace our flaws, not take ourselves too seriously and remember to work hard and you can do anything!”