Young Adult Spotlight – Jessica Niemela

I can remember being told that I had a hearing loss practically my whole life. My parents insisted that it was due to all those ear infections and then getting the tubes in my ears; but very likely I know now that it is congenital. I was diagnosed with moderate-severe bilateral sensorineural hearing loss at 4 years of age. It was not until 20 years of age that I decided to finally wear hearing aids.

 

I grew up in a small city-Thunder Bay, Ontario. Although I could not hear as well as my peers, I excelled in school, played piano, obtained a black belt in karate, and strived to have a robust social life. The thought of wearing hearing aids convinced me that I would no longer be able to do all these things as I would be considered disabled. Even though everyone knew I had a hearing loss, I felt that it was invisible.

 

In 2006 I started my first year of nursing school at Lakehead University. This was a breaking point in my life as I started my first clinical placement; I remember walking into the ward as a young nursing student and not being able to hear anything important. I became scared- my hearing loss surely could not interfere with saving lives. I spoke to my clinical instructor about this, and by the next week I was wearing hearing aids for the first time.

 

I graduated out of nursing school in 2010 and immediately moved to British Columbia. Nursing has taken me to diverse places in this province—ranging from remote Northern practice in Bella Bella, BC, to one of the busiest urban emergency departments in Canada. After eight years of nursing, I built up the courage to explore the field of audiology where I can directly help others with hearing loss.

 

I am proud to say that I am pursuing my dream to become an audiologist. I am now in my second year at the University of British Columbia’s Master’s of Science in Audiology Program. In this time, I quickly learned that I could have a more active role in the deaf and hard of hearing community. I looked to CHHA-BC to make this happen, where I became a mentor in the organization’s Online Mentor’s Program for people with hearing loss.

 

When I am not in school, I enjoy my free time with my 15-month-old son and my loving partner. I hope to continue my new-found joy in being a part of hard of hearing and deaf communities- something I wish I had done much sooner.