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Resilience or persistence?

By Michele Nealon - posted Friday, 29 April 2011

The Macquarie Dictionary (2004) defines 'resilience' as springing back; rebounding; returning to the original form of position after being bent, compressed or stretched; readily recovering as from sickness, depression, or the like; buoyant; cheerful.

Persistence on the other hand is defined as persisting especially in spite of opposition; lasting or enduring; continued, constantly repeated.

Is resilience possible without persistence or can persistence triumph without resilience?


This is a personal story. It's a story similar to one that could be told by any of the one in six Australians who experience hearing loss on a daily and ongoing basis. It is a story about constantly meeting misunderstanding, resistance and discrimination as a result of hearing loss. This is a story about how resilience and persistence are necessary elements to living in a society where inclusion is mostly, a politically correct fantasy and not a reality. This is my story.

While in primary school, I was diagnosed with a congenital moderate hearing impairment. Fitted with hearing aids, my peers, at such a young age singled me out as someone different. My teachers, in the main, spent so much time focused on my hearing impairment they failed to realize my need to fit in, to be one of the crowd and to acknowledge my abilities.

My lip reading, untaught but well learnt meant I could sit in the back of the classroom, have full vision of the teacher's location and absorb as much information as I could gather. Cognitively, I filled in the many gaps left by lip reading. Whatever was delivered verbally could be found in writing somewhere and so I became a frequent visitor and expert in finding my way around a library. I discovered many interesting facts in the process but the time in the library did have a price, self imposed social exclusion for the sake of maintaining my educational grades.

In the playground, I was the kid who was known to be unpredictable. More misunderstanding, I wasn't unpredictable, my hearing was unreliable. Insult me to my face and you will likely get a passionate and direct response. Insult me as you or I walk away and it's highly unlikely you'll get any response at all. Not because I don't care or am speechless, just because I didn't hear you.

Music is my relaxation. It is a skill that allows me to spend time alone. No, it never occurred to me that for someone with a hearing impairment, music may not be the most logical choice! I was accepted into the NSW Conservatorium of Music and successfully completed two tertiary courses. This hearing thing was not going to get in my way. My physical inability to separate notes played simultaneously just meant I needed more cognitive power to process the sounds heard. I would persist until I succeeded. Every time I was wrong, I would try again. Was that resilience, persistence or just plain stubbornness?

From study to employment…..surely we live in a socially inclusive society – don't we? A society that embraces diversity and provides equal workplace opportunities for all. So how is that, that a well adjusted, articulate, organized, passionate individual like myself can manage to have their career curtailed by a manager who had no patience for a person with a hearing impairment and continue to come up against those same prejudices that existed in my primary school. The choices appear to be, either make my hearing impairment a major issue or ignore my hearing loss and refuse to make anything like reasonable adjustments.


So do I become a part of the silent majority – that large number of people who never speak publicly of their hearing loss or do I stand on the mountain top and become a target for the discrimination thrown at me by a society who would have me ignore my hearing impairment. Experience as we all know is the best teacher. My hearing impairment is part of my story, it's not all of me but it has certainly shaped how I see the world and who I have become. Resilience and persistence for people with a hearing impairment is a life lesson. It's not a lesson we choose to undertake, it's a lesson that is forced on us by society.

Fortunately there are some wonderful people in the world who believe passionately in an inclusive society. Those are the people, who realizing I missed the critical information would assist me without making a fuss. Those are the people who make the best of friends with their high levels of empathy. Those are the people who understand that good communication involves sitting opposite the person you are speaking with, ensuring your mouth is not covered, remaining relaxed and speaking at a normal volume and speed. Persistence was required to identify those gems and what a difference they make to my world!

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About the Author

Michele Nealon is a 40 something individual, who lives in Sydney and is currently searching for meaningful employment in the not-for-profit sector. Michele's experiences mean she is passionate about equal access for all.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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