Roller derby team connections lead to improved hearing for local woman

Renee Livernoche's hearing was damaged after a dog attack as a child. After years of making it work, her world has finally burst open.

An accident as a child left Renee Livernoche with permanent hearing problems. Just a few months ago, Livernoche, now 35, got her first pair of hearing aids, and her world has never been the same.

When she was 10 years old, Livernoche was delivering newspapers when she came to a house with two large dogs. The dogs attacked her, causing her to fall and hit her left eardrum on the curb. As a result, Livernoche was hard of hearing in her left ear. Over time, she learned to adapt.

“I survived as best I could,” she said, adding she would avoid social situations with a lot of background noise.

As an adult, a hearing test revealed she needed hearing aids, but the hefty price tag put them out of reach.

“For me, it was like, I’m surviving, I don’t have the money to pay for that, [and] I don’t know what I’m missing, so how do I know what it’s worth,” said Livernoche. “I hadn’t realized the impact it had on my life and on my personality.”

While at social gatherings, Livernoche said she would often appear aloof.

“If I was at a dinner party, I would start to not be able to hear people. It was hard to want to engage in conversation when I knew I was going to struggle with hearing.”

Several years ago, Livernoche decided to join a local roller derby league, Eves of Destruction.

“I needed to join something in order to belong somewhere,” said Livernoche. “I needed to focus my energy on something.”

Then, a Connect Hearing employee joined the team. She told the team they should all go get their hearing checked, because if someone from the team needed Connect Hearing’s services, they might consider being a sponsor.

When Livernoche went in for her test with audiologist Mae Hernandez, she found out she not only had hearing damage in her left ear, but it had now also become apparent in her right ear. She would often turn up her music louder than she probably should to make up for her left ear, and now her other ear had been damaged as a result.

With hearing aids once again recommended, Hernandez connected her with the Island Deaf and Hard of Hearing Centre, which was able to help with financial support, and five months ago, Livernoche received a trial pair of hearing aids.

“All of a sudden my world burst open,” said Livernoche. “It was like hearing had colour.”

After getting the hearing aids, she went to Beacon Hill Park and just sat listening to the ducks – something she hadn’t been able to enjoy before.

“I had to actually turn them down or take them out every once in a while, because it was overwhelming.”

Island Deaf and Hard of Hearing let Livernoche keep her hearing aids and also set her up with an employment counsellor. She now works as a Bladerunner’s job coach with the John Howard Society.

“Every day that I’m there, I’m thankful for my hearing aids, because it’s in the industrial zone,” said Livernoche. “There’s always lots and lots of noise outside. I would have not been able to hear people because of all the background noise.”

With the help of her roller derby teammate and IDHHC, Livernoche has become more outgoing and relaxed.

“Now I don’t have to worry about saying ‘What?’ anymore, because I know it’s not my fault,” said Livernoche. “All of a sudden i could lean back and be more relaxed and feel the sound coming to me instead of having to reach for it.”

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