Mafalda is an 18-year old student from Viseu, Portugal. From the outside she’s happy and carefree, doing “typical” teenage things like shopping and hanging out with friends. But her road there has not always been easy.
She was born completely deaf on her left side, and with some hearing loss in her right ear. All through her childhood she had to rely on lip reading and passing written notes to get by. Her mother was the only person she really learnt to understand.
As her hearing loss gradually became worse, Mafalda had to give up one hobby after another, as lip reading became too difficult and she couldn’t communicate. She wasn’t able to listen to music or use her mobile phone. Even interacting with family members was exhausting. Her mother had to explain every word her siblings were saying.
“When I started school, my teacher told everyone I had a hearing problem – and the whole class made fun of me,” says Mafalda. “It was horrible, nothing I ever want to experience again.”
Young Mafalda endured years of bullying. Since she couldn’t take part in or keep up with group conversations, she felt socially out of place, and couldn’t concentrate in the classroom. Both her social life and her grades were slipping.
Finally, in 2008, at 12 years of age, she received a Baha bone conduction hearing implant on her right side. At first Mafalda wasn’t really open to the idea.
“I didn’t want any hearing implant – even though I couldn’t hear. I was afraid of what people would say. Now, I regret I ever said that because I realise how much I was missing out on.”
The new hearing system took some time getting used to. At first, in school, Mafalda asked if she could move to the back row because she found the teacher’s voice so loud. But gradually she got used all the new sounds, she started hearing her classmates and started making friends.
“We saw a big change in Mafalda, like night and day,” says her mother, Conceição. “She’s like a completely different person now. She understands what goes on in the classroom and her development has absolutely skyrocketed.”
Mafalda is now able to go out in groups of friends and take part in conversations with several people at the same time. She has also started to appreciate music for the first time – her favourite singer is Beyoncé. But the biggest change is the sense of freedom – to go out alone, and know that she can hear traffic or someone calling her name. Previously, she never walked anywhere by herself.
“I feel more secure now that I know she’ll be able to hear a car. You fear for your children, you know?” says Conceição.
“It’s been a crazy but rewarding experience that changed my life. I’ve had an excellent experience with the Baha system and would recommend it to anyone in my situation. Without a doubt.”
Do YOU or anyone you know suffer from hearing loss? The first step is to see a hearing care professional. Click here to find a clinic in your area.