Inclusive communication: Andrea’s story

I never realised I had a problem with my hearing until my early 30s.  I was newly married and my husband suggested that I get my hearing checked. I kept saying “my hearing’s perfect!”

At the test, the audiologist was trying to be tactful in telling me that my hearing was slightly off.  There was no need, so much of my life experience fell into place!  I immediately understood why I was slow learning to read, why I never knew the lyrics to songs, and why I sometimes had issue with social connections.

Fast forward another decade and I was recommended hearing aids. My ego and the cost got in the way so I procrastinated for two years. When I was ready, I was referred to the HEAR service (part of VicDeaf, now Expression Australia) and finally got my first hearing aids on 1 May 2002. I remember walking out of the place, going to the supermarket, and feeling like an idiot because I heard the music they were playing for the first time. I didn’t know there was music.

It took a few years to grasp that my hearing aids didn’t make my hearing normal. Nobody told me or helped me understand the wider impact of my hearing loss.  My work has been mainly in public relations/communications projects and I found that my relationships with some supervisors didn’t go well. Only later did I realise that I it was my personal style of communications, due to my hearing loss, that had been the key issue in these cases.  I’m passionate about effective communications, so I decided to turn my loss into a positive and start a business in inclusive communication. Inclusive communications champions developing and delivering information in a range of ways that meet the needs of diverse audiences, including people with communications disabilities, from different cultures, with limited English, and/or digital literacy. A few years later, I also started volunteering at Alfred Health and became a health consumer advocate. During 2019 I joined Better Hearing Australia (now Soundfair) as I was keen to contribute to the evolving advocacy role of the organisation.

I’ve always wanted to do something meaningful. As it turns out, 2020 was one of the most amazing, wonderful years of my life. With Soundfair, I’ve been working to educate health professionals on inclusive communication. I’ve also been part of what is possibly the new model of consumer-centred model as part of my committee and advocacy involvement. Today, I can look back and feel good that I’ve made a useful contribution. I am really proud of myself.