Once Dannevirke's Nikki Martin would choose isolation over staying at a social event because of her hearing impairment.
But since working with Anne Greatbatch, a hearing therapist for Life Unlimited, Nikki's life has changed for the better.
"Anne has saved my job and my quality of life," 45-year-old Nikki said.
"It's soul-destroying not having a job, but now I work as an adult educator and it's a fulfilling job which has kick-started my career."
Nikki believes her hearing problems go back 30 years, but now Anne has taught her coping mechanisms and educational advice to help live her life to the full, as well as finding a replacement hearing aid after Nikki's dog ate hers.
"It's been frustrating for me and I've changed jobs a number of times because I had trouble hearing," Nikki said. "I remember once my teacher throwing my text book back at me in class, so obviously I hadn't heard correctly even then."
Self-esteem and the value in work have been the primary drivers for Nikki in seeking help from Anne in 2005.
"Nikki works twice as hard as anyone else in a job because of her hearing problems," Anne said.
"Hers is an unseen condition and one of the things she's had to learn is how to educate those around her. Helping Nikki is about setting realistic expectations."
Life Unlimited is contracted by the Ministry of Health to provide a national, free independent hearing therapy (aural rehabilitation) service to New Zealand citizens and permanent residents aged 16 years and over.
Hearing loss is a significant issue facing New Zealanders, with 880,350 people now living with some type of hearing loss - 18.9 per cent of the population. The costs for the New Zealand economy is $957.3 million a year, with the cost to the health sector an estimated $131.8m each year.
A research report commissioned by the National Foundation for the Deaf to look at the economic impact of hearing loss shows productivity losses of $552.4m a year, or $627 a person.
For Nikki, teaching others how to talk to her has been part of her journey with Anne and recently she used all her new skills to solve a dilemma at work.
"I had to attend a very important presentation, but I was anxious and nervous because normally in that situation I would miss 50 per cent of the speech," she said.
"Anne suggest a PA system she has in her office, [funded by the community grants scheme] but I was worried how I would get the chief executive to put the headphones on."
Anne also had a conversation with Nikki about the challenges she might face in getting speakers to accept the headphones, but after explaining the situation and putting the chief executive at ease, Nikki was able to hear the speech which was so vital to her.
"After the presentation I had others come up to me and say 'what a blessing the PA system had been'. I don't think I missed anything and when I saw Anne I was elated."
Anne said it's been a privileged working alongside Nikki for the past 11 years.
With her hearing aid her lifeline, Nikki called on Anne when her dog ate hers.
"There was clause in her insurance policy which said they'd no longer pay out if a dog ate the hearing aid and because she wasn't eligible for a subsidy at the time, I had to come up with a solution.
"I asked audiologists if they had any second-hand hearing aides to suit Nikki's level of hearing loss and yes, one was available. MidCentral Health reprogrammed the hearing aid to suit Nikki and the result has been a really good, collaborative effort.''
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