Gina Preston is an ambitous 23 year old girl working in an international engineering project management firm as a multidisciplinary designer. She loves what she does and knows where she wants to go – both in career and in life.
She recently bought her first home, is planning her next overseas holiday where she will travel solo across South America and loves listening to music, watching movies and playing sport. But Gina isn’t your typical 23 year old girl because she was born profoundly deaf.
Gina’s hearing loss was diagnosed when she was 13 months old. A family friend dropped a saucepan on the kitchen tiles and Gina didn’t react, she reflects on what happened next “It was a bit of a shock for my parents as I had been tested previously and passed all three of these tests. However, once they had all the information they set about ensuring that I would have a hearing listening and speaking future.” At two years old, Gina received a cochlear implant in her right ear and a hearing aid in her left (the hearing aid would later be replaced with a second cochlear implant).
Once Gina had the technology, her parents did a global search to find someone who could help them achieve the goals of Gina learning to hear, listen and speak. That’s when they found Dr Dimity Dornan AO and the organisation she founded, Hear and Say.
“We were living in the UK so my Dad rang Dimity from London just before we migrated to Australia. She told him that Hear and Say could help me learn to listen, hear and speak and that I would be able to live a normal hearing life, attend mainstream school and be anything I wanted to be. This was a huge relief for my parents and so when we moved to Brisbane, I started auditory-verbal therapy and it changed all of our lives in the most positive way.”
“I’m really grateful and passionate about what Hear and Say do as they have made such a profound difference to my life. My world has been opened up and I know I can achieve anything I put my mind to.
Hear and Say have made a huge difference to my life and to my family’s life. They’ve taught me to listen, hear and speak and be able to communicate, interact and socialise with the world around me. They also taught my family how to support me while I was learning to listen, hear and speak and this has been invaluable to all of us.”
Gina’s favourite part of her Hear and Say journey was the LEAP playgroup, not just because of the friends she made but because of the support it provided for her family. She said “My sister who doesn’t have hearing loss, got to be part of it because Hear and Say encourage the whole family to learn the skills needed to support me.”
While those early years were vital to her success, she says it’s continued on from there, “As I grew older I attended Hear and Say programs that helped me with my communication skills, team building, resilience and many other social skills that have helped me get to where I am today.”
Gina believes that intervention, technology and auditory-verbal therapy which included speech lessons, playgroups and social skill sessions that she received at Hear and Say has meant she can live the life she imagines; “Being able to listen and speak to anyone be it my sister, my high school English teacher or a colleague means my world is completely open.
Technology has improved so much that I can now listen to music and talk on my mobile phone through a wireless Bluetooth connection.
I don’t feel my hearing impairment holds me back at all, sure there are challenges but everyone has those. I don’t think I’m any different to anyone else, I want to embrace life like the next person and live it to my full potential.”
HEARING AWARENESS WEEK
Gina graduated from high school in 2012 and then went on to complete her Advanced Diploma in Engineering at TAFE in 2016. Gina is a strong advocate of Hear and Say and is a mentor as part of our Hear to Live program which supports teenagers as they start to transition from school life. She is passionate about continuing to help others on their hearing loss journey and urges anyone to have their hearing checked as part of Hearing Awareness Week 3-9 March. For more information on Hearing Awareness Week please go to www.hearandsay.com.au/hearingawarenessweek