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Deafness no Barrier to Success

19 December 2007

Deafness no Barrier to Success

Quest for Excellence Scholar Set to Become NZ’s First Deaf Audiologist

Melanie MacKenzie, a 29-year old from Central Otago, is on her way to becoming New Zealand’s first deaf audiologist with help from a National Foundation for the Deaf (NFD) scholarship.

The NFD has awarded Melanie, who has a profound bilateral hearing loss, with its 2007 Quest for Excellence Scholarship.

The $15,000 Quest for Excellence Scholarship was established by the NFD for post-graduate study. It recognises deaf or hearing impaired people who have overcome the odds to achieve excellence.

Melanie, who is currently studying for a Masters of Audiology at the University of Canterbury, wants to turn her struggle with hearing loss into an opportunity to help others and this made her stand out as an exceptional candidate.

“By becoming an Audiologist I want to help other hearing impaired people by giving them confidence and understanding and inspiring them to fulfil their potential.”

Melanie was 13 when a routine trip to the doctor uncovered her hearing loss. She was tested and issued with hearing aids immediately.

“The last thing you want when you’re 13 is to be fitted with hearing aids. There was such a stigma attached to them.”

Her hearing loss got worse over the next 10 years as she struggled through high school and university. Four years ago she lost virtually all hearing and was fitted with a cochlear implant.

Despite her difficulties Melanie graduated from the University of Otago with a double major Bachelor of Arts and later completed a Certificate in Business Systems in Computing. Motivated by her part-time job at the Disabilities Office, she decided to pursue the path to audiology.

Melanie believes that all those years of trying to cope with a profound bilateral hearing loss will hold her in good stead for her chosen career.

“It can be extremely lonely and isolating when you can’t hear but it doesn’t have to be the bain of your life. Because I’ve been through all the stages – from moderate to severe hearing loss, hearing aids and a cochlear implant – I feel that I can really empathise with people and provide a greater level of insight, and effective suggestions to hearing impaired people.

“While everyone’s experiences are different, I think I can help people realise they can still achieve. It’s all about perseverance, developing communication skills and having the confidence to speak up – it can be really hard.”

Marianne Schumacher, executive manager of the NFD said Melanie is a fantastic role model for the 450,000 New Zealanders with hearing loss.

“Hearing impaired people face a number of unique challenges. Hearing loss is often labelled the invisible disability, which can make participation in society difficult and can often lead to feelings of loneliness and isolation.

“Melanie is a very talented woman who must be applauded for overcoming a number of obstacles to get to where she is today, and for turning her personal struggle with deafness into something that is going to benefit so many others.”

Melanie plans to use the $15,000 scholarship to help pay course fees as well as cover travel and time costs while she completes the required two months of practicums in clinics and hospitals.


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