Alison Graham is a hearing instrument practitioner at Connect Hearing in Victoria, British Columbia. She lost her hearing when she was three years old and was fitted with her first hearing aid when she was four years old.
Graham recently spoke with our blog team about her life, how things have changed, and the joy she gets helping people in the community.
Connect Hearing: Your job sounds really interesting!
Graham: Yes! It’s just so gratifying. Communication is such a big part of people's lives and to know that I’ve played a big part helping people communicate better, especially having experienced those challenges myself, is just really rewarding. I just can’t think of another job that would be as rewarding as this one.
Connect Hearing: What were some of the challenges you faced growing up?
Graham: I grew up in rural Ontario. For one thing, we didn’t have the services, and two, we didn’t have the awareness. At that time it was either you become vocal, or you do sign language. There weren’t many options in between. Hearing loss didn’t become a real issue for me until I started to explore my post-secondary education going into college and university. It was very challenging because I didn’t know where to go for resources.
Connect Hearing: What did you do?
Graham: I was really lucky because it was actually George Brown College that I went to and I was really lucky that George Brown had the Hearing Instrument Specialist course. They also had an excellent disability department. They really specialize in dealing with the deaf and hard-of-hearing and they provided a note taker for the classroom. I have a lot of friends who wear hearing aids, and a lot of them have no post-secondary education because the services just were not easily accessible.
Connect Hearing: Would you say things have improved?
Graham: There’s still a lot of work to be done. I think we’ve improved by taking away much of the stigma of hearing loss, and with iPhones and iPads, technology today is current, trendy; it's just our way of life now where before it was not. So people now are a lot more open to the idea of using hearing aids. If anything, people find it interesting.
Connect Hearing: So technology has made it easier, especially for young people?
Graham: I think it’s a lot easier in some ways, and I think it still presents challenges in other ways. I think it’s easier because we have technology now. I mean now you can FaceTime with someone to have a conversation. So if you have hearing loss and wear a hearing aid, you can easily read their visual cues or read lips. That makes it a lot easier. It still doesn’t change the fact that hearing loss still makes communicating difficult. What is easy for some people isn’t for others. But I think that slowly we’re getting to a better place.
Connect Hearing: Can you talk about some of the people you have helped?
There was a young woman, probably in her forties. She had tried hearing aids years ago in her early twenties and they just weren’t successful for her -- she felt it didn’t do much. She didn’t get any of the follow-up care. So she still had these hearing aids she would put on from time to time. She actually saw my interview on television and her husband said, 'Why don’t you go in and talk to her?' So she came in reluctantly. We talked for quite a long time, and I managed to get some hearing aids on her and right away she immediately broke down crying. She was able to hear the conversations. Her work, relationships improved. Her husband came in a few days after that and dropped off a massive bouquet of flowers and said this has been life changing for her. That was a really special moment.
Check out Alison's video with Shaw TV below: