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Bethany Miller: Advocating for Cochlear Implants

July 5th, 2013 by | Tags: , | 3 Comments »

Bethany Miller is a young adult cochlear implant recipient who is very passionate about advocating for cochlear implants.  She created a few videos sharing her experiences about hearing with cochlear implants.  She was born profoundly deaf and then received a cochlear implant at a young age.

What is the cause of your deafness and when did your parents first learn about your deafness?

The cause of my deafness is not known, as I had no major illnesses and neither did my mother. There is no trace of hearing loss in my family. My mum knew there was something wrong with me about when I was about 10 months old, but it took 5 months of convincing doctors to actually discover I was profoundly deaf.

Why did your parents choose to get you cochlear implants and teach you to hear and speak? Are you grateful for their decision?

It was a tough decision for my parents. They didn’t want to make a choice for me that I was too young to understand or might dislike them for later. But they wanted me to have the chance to communicate with my whole family – grandparents, cousins, the lot. They decided that they’d try the cochlear implant for me, and if I decided it wasn’t for me, I could choose to learn to sign, but at least I’d been given the choice of being able to hear and speak.

Someone told me that you had to fight to get a second cochlear implant. Why was getting a second cochlear implant so important?

Haha! Did I ever! No-one would listen! My parents were very hesitant but I was a very stubborn 13 year old! Getting a second implant was important to me because I went to a CAN (Cochlear Awareness Network) meeting with Mum in Sydney, and at the time, no-one in South Australia had bilaterals.  So, we had no idea until we met others who did! They all said that it helped them even more so I said, right let’s do it! I wanted the best hearing I could get!

While I don’t use it now, I am still glad I persisted because I paved the way for all the other teenagers to get them – and they did after I’d gotten mine! It was worth trying.

Why did you choose to no longer wear your second implanted ear?

I chose not to wear it anymore because I have this powerup problem with it where every time I put it on, it feels like there is a screeching shock in my head which is quite unpleasant. Cochlear have actually sent audiologists and engineers to my state to try and sort it out. It hasn’t been solved yet, but I remain confident it will happen one day! They’ve done everything else! I’d happily go back to wearing it otherwise. It’s no where near as good as my first implanted ear, but it does help.

What obstacles did you face while growing up with hearing loss and how did you overcome the challenges?

I did use to have a lot of kids point and stare at me, especially with my lovely box and pouch! But I quickly got used to it. I struggled mostly in high school, with girls being girls and not being very understanding!

Obviously I stood out, but I got very involved in extra-curriculars and academics and made sure I stood out for different reasons.
There’s actually a video coming soon that talks on more on this

Apart from that, I was a very blessed child and got to do everything a kid wanted to do.

What tips do you have for children and teenagers who are facing bullying due to having a cochlear implant?

I pretended it wasn’t happening. I ignored it and fueled all my energy into other things I loved, like public speaking, netball, and lots of other activities to keep my mind occupied so I wasn’t thinking about that all the time. There were some incidents when I actually let my ‘friends’ know how much they were hurting me by doing some things, and they didn’t actually realise what they were doing was bullying. My mum (Good Ol’ Mum) always said that it didn’t matter what they thought of me, it mattered what I thought of me. If I was happy with myself, which a lot of teenagers aren’t, then I was doing something right.  It actually got to the point where I was getting snide remarks for being a ‘teachers pet’ because of my grades.

What accomplishments are most proud of?

I’ve been fortunate enough to have done a lot! One very notable one is winning the brand game (board game) against my family. I’ve also been a finalist in a national magazine competition (2010), got to meet the Queen of Sweden (2005) and I finished high school with a perfect score for my research project subject and in the top 7% of the country.  I’m mostly just proud that I’ve been able to do things that even most hearing people haven’t achieved.

Could you tell more about your videos? What are you exactly doing with the videos and what are your goals of producing the videos?

My videos are basically about my life with cochlear implants. I realize that’s something that makes me interesting to other people, and they want to know more about it. It’s actually (apparently) been really helpful for parents too, because sometimes you can’t see the end results and if I can answer some questions, and make them more positive about the whole decision, all the better! I’m unable to make as many meetings to do my public speaking, and I’ve wanted to develop my channel for a while – when I entered Girlfriend of the Year in 2010, I wanted to use the possible winning money to get the funds to really start the channel. I’ve learned to use the resources I have and it’s a learning process! I’ve heard that your first 50 videos will be terrible in comparison to your next ones. Who knows if I’ll make that many, I’d love to get to that stage! But I hadn’t really seen anything else like my channel on the internet either – a girl who’s grown up with cochlear implants. There’s lots of blogs, activation videos, etc but not much of the inbetween!  Hopefully my videos help people understand us CI’s a bit more – and that we don’t sound or act like robots!

What inspired you to become an advocate for cochlear implants?

I’ve always been an advocate, anyone who wears one is! But I did it on more of a scale back in 2007 when me and my mother were invited to join the first CAN team. We gave presentations to local clubs on cochlear implants and by the time we finished doing them as extensively in 2010, we’d presented at over 50 clubs. Mum and I didn’t want any other person to miss out on the opportunity of having a cochlear implant just because they didn’t know enough about them. It’s something I’m very interested in, and I absolutely love doing it. Especially my videos, I’d do more, and do them better if I had the time and resources!

What tips do you have for people who want to become an advocate for cochlear implants?

Well I’ve definitely learned a lot over the past year! The first is probably – be pushy! In order to get bookings, mum and I actually sent letters out to local service clubs and said “Hey! We’d love to come speak at your club!”  This is something I’m still working on as I’m trying to direct the right audience to my channel and blog. It’s a learning process, you understand what works, what doesn’t and go from there!

The second is to be open minded and realise that others may have a different understanding on the cochlear implant. This is something that has especially hit home this year – I’ve received ‘hate mail’ as a result of my videos and blog content. You have to push past that and honestly, when you find even one person that your message has connected with, it makes it all worth it.

I’d do it forever if I could. I’d love to make videos, blog and such for a living, which is why I’m doing a degree in media I guess! Bring it on!

Here is one of the videos that Bethany created:


July 8, 2013 at 2:59 am

Well done! Thanks for sharing your inspirational story, Bethany!

Interesting to read that Cochlear tried to help you figure out the noise issue with your second implant.

Good that you have captions in your video, and I like the way you used the worded signs.


July 8, 2013 at 5:05 am

Hello. I am very glad that there are cochlear implant. My son is now three in October. The re ear has been implanted with eleven months and left last year in April. A question. What about the talk? He does not really have much. Sorry my English is not good and use a translator

Tanja S.

August 20, 2013 at 7:24 am

Great video Bethany! You and mum are such a great ambassador for Cochlear, keep up the good work. I like the music and the signs in your video and great to see your smiling face!