Hugh is aiming high with his cochlear implant

Hugh pictured with his mum, Linda

When Hugh was born he was diagnosed with both hearing and vision loss, and his parents turned to Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children (RIDBC) to access the organisation’s specialist hearing and vision services. Then, when Hugh was one, he received a cochlear implant.

Hugh continues to receive support from SCIC Cochlear Implant Program, an RIDBC service. He is currently studying a double degree, with a Macquarie University Bachelor of Advanced Science and Actuarial Studies.

“Growing up I was very stubborn,” said Hugh. “I didn’t want to acknowledge that I had a disability. Throughout my childhood I was just trying to fit in.

“During high school I started changing. I loved swimming and I started joining swimming competitions where there were other people with disabilities. Seeing what other people went through to get to where they were was eye opening. I think that is when I started to embrace the fact that I was different.”

Dealing with the pressures of adolescence alongside the experience of being deaf was both a challenging and formative experience for Hugh.

“I spent a lot of time navigating the fine line between not accepting help and knowing I needed some assistance,” said Hugh.

“Swimming helped with that. I loved the water and had to cope with the fact I couldn’t hear when swimming – it became a real exercise in meditation.

“In year 12 I arranged for special provisions in the higher school certificate. I was able to sit my exams in my own room. Being able to complete my exams in solitude really helped me to focus.”

In 2017, Hugh was awarded the Cochlear Graeme Clark Scholarship on the basis of academic merit. The scholarship was established to support cochlear implant recipients in their university studies.

“I have been told a lot about Graeme Clark who invented the cochlear implant,” said Hugh. “He’s inspirational. It’s not just a story about deafness, but about technology. When I was told that Graeme Clark himself was on the board who approved my scholarship – that was very humbling.”

Hugh isn’t sure where his next steps will take him.

“I have a passion for teaching so I want to teach in some sort of form,” said Hugh. “In an ideal world I would have my own business, combining education, finance and mathematics. I’m just not sure that job exists yet!

“My advice to other young people is more of an observation - people are much more willing to help than you think. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Also, never lower the expectations you have for yourself because you have a disability. It’s amazing where you can get to if you just focus on what you can achieve.”