Stories - July 25, 2023
Hearing the call to help others
Sarah Frawley has always wanted to give back.
Growing up with a hearing impairment never stopped Sarah from pursuing her goals, even when she lost all hearing at 23 years old and at the time she was in the final stages of finishing her teaching degree. Fast forward and the 31-year-old who now calls Victoria’s Kinglake Ranges home with her partner James and two dogs is powering to her second degree, her passion audiology.
But it has been the incredible advances in technology and with the support of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) and local partner Intereach, that has transformed Sarah’s daily life. Sarah received cochlear implants in 2015 and 2017. They helped significantly with work and study, but the latest sound processors, the Nucleus 8 (N8), she received using her
NDIS funding and with the support of Intereach have been a game changer.
“My hearing experience has been dramatically enhanced. It has been awesome,” Sarah said.
Lighter, smaller, more powerful and providing greater clarity, Sarah can control her new processors through her smartphone.
“It has allowed me to grow in confidence. I can Bluetooth the processors through my phone which has made taking and making phone calls so much easier. It was something that I wasn’t comfortable doing until this upgrade,” she said.
“I have a wire-free experience which means I can directly stream music and video and phone calls to my ears which is an amazing experience.
“I want to thank the Intereach so much for helping me get these upgrades.”
Sarah was supported through Intereach’s Seymour office with the team working closely with the NDIS to have the latest technology made available and quickly. Sarah was already severely deaf at the age of 2 and fitted with hearing aids, but 21 years later her hearing had worsened due to a sudden sensorineural hearing loss. Hearing aids were no longer an option.
“I remember my total hearing loss, it was traumatic. I had just finished my first semester of my final year of teaching and was meeting up with my partner James when my hearing had dropped to what felt like 30 per cent,” she said. “I had about a 70 per cent loss of hearing in a very short time and could feel it rapidly deteriorating down to nothing.
“At first, I thought it was my hearing aid. A change of batteries and a change of wiring didn’t help. It was classic symptoms of me getting sick which had happened over the course of my life. I thought this was normal because my hearing normally fixes itself in a few days to a week after my episodes. However, a week later my hearing wasn’t coming back, and it was concerning at this point.
“Here I was with one semester to go on my teaching degree, and I was told my hearing wasn’t coming back. I went onto a waiting list for a cochlear implant, and I went 6 months deaf.”
In terms of her academic achievements, it set Sarah’s teaching degree back a year, but with her new cochlear implants, it was the aid she needed to allow her to complete her teaching placements and her degree.
More than 6 years have passed since her surgery and study and Sarah has made an impact on many young lives with her teaching skills. But it has been a wish to become an audiologist and the desire to give back to the medical field which has supported her for so long that is driving her studies and ambitions.
“My passion has always been in audiology. I have always wanted to help others and while teaching has done that, I wanted to do more!” Sarah said.
While at the start of her audiology journey, Sarah is already thinking of ways to support regional communities.
“I really would love to open a hearing clinic around where I live to cater for hearing aid and cochlear implant users, it is later down the track,” she said. “But I know that for many in regional Victoria, even where I live now which is pretty close to the city, you still have to go into Melbourne for many of the services associated with cochlear implants.
“I do have a long way to go with my study, but I am excited.”