Early support gives teenager Ruby the power to take hearing loss in her stride

Early support gives teenager Ruby the power to take hearing loss in her stride

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Eighteen-year-old Ruby is having a gap year that’s different to most: she’s working as a ringer on a 500,000 hectare remote cattle station in the Kimberley region of Western Australia.

‘I’m challenged daily, and I love it,’ Ruby says. ‘I’m doing things I never thought I’d be able to do. Every day is different—I could be mustering on a bike, drafting, doing bore runs, branding, dehorning and ear tagging cattle, or doing fence maintenance. It’s a massive operation, in hot, dry, dusty conditions where we process up to 1500 cattle a day.’

Ruby has been passionate about agriculture since childhood and has big plans for a career in the industry. She was also born profoundly deaf, receiving her first cochlear implant at eight months old and her second implant aged seven.

Because she received very early support and intervention services through not-for-profit organisation NextSense, Ruby was able to access sound from an early age, hit her speech milestones, and participate in activities with her hearing peers. She attended boarding school and represented her school in sports such as swimming and target shooting.

‘Our investment in early intervention was so worth it,’ says Ruby’s mum Tania.

‘As part of our lifelong journey we’ve received fantastic support from NextSense. Having access to so many resources through NextSense made the world of difference and has supported Ruby to be the strong and confident person she is today.’

Audeara joined NextSense as a corporate partner earlier this year because our two organisations have a shared commitment to hearing health and managing the impact of hearing loss.

The $40,000 cash and in-kind partnership supports NextSense audiologists, speech pathologists and other expert allied health staff to continue delivering customised services to clients right across Australia and go even further in providing quality, evidence-based support.

The partnership between NextSense, Ruby and her parents Mark and Tania began when the family realised the hearing aids Ruby had been fitted with at six weeks old were not working for her. Extensive testing through the NextSense cochlear implant program revealed a near total loss of cochlear function in both ears. She could not hear sounds at 120 decibels – equivalent to the noise of a jet plane – which meant she was profoundly deaf and also a candidate for receiving a cochlear implant.

Then began a journey that involved sessions for speech pathology, regular programming of the cochlear implant device, audiological testing and early intervention support.

Through the NextSense connected services program, the family was also able to access telepractice, reducing the need for travel to Sydney from their northern NSW home.

‘The online support we received was incredibly invaluable for us when Ruby was very young,’ Tania says. ‘We were still trying to navigate this whole new world and it was the perfect role modelling for us, with the teacher transferring her knowledge to us every lesson.’

With professional support from NextSense, Ruby was independently managing her cochlear devices from age 12.

‘It was up to her to charge her batteries, look after her implants at swim training, and ensure she could hear with her helmet on when horse riding,’ Tania says. It hasn’t been an easy road, but Ruby is now extremely independent. She is dedicated to whatever she does and loves a challenge.’

That’s no understatement, given this young jillaroo is pushing herself in a way that other 18-year-olds might envy.

Ruby smiling on a dirt bike at her farm

‘I find as people get to know me, they curiously ask about my hearing aids,’ Ruby says. ‘I generally laugh, correct them, and explain that I was born profoundly deaf and have bilateral cochlear implants!’

Audeara CEO Dr James Fielding says: ‘We are passionate about listening equity and supporting hearing health so we’re thrilled to be partnering with NextSense and the many people they work with like the amazing Ruby. Life is meant to be lived and enjoyed, and Audeara is here to make that possible’.