Some of you will recognise Laila as she has regularly competed at Talent Tribe dance festival since our very first comp in 2017 where she was in the babies section! Now, at age 10, we love seeing Laila’s continued passion for dance on the stage and we love even more how supportive she is of her friends.
What you may not know is, Laila is hearing impaired - with severe hearing loss in both ears. She can’t always hear people speaking to her, she can’t always hear her music, but she always turns up and gives 100 percent effort to her performances.
About 0.9 percent of kids under 17 have a moderate, severe or profound hearing loss. For Laila, her hearing loss comes with some little known challenges, Laila can’t hear super high or super low sound frequencies- even while wearing her hearing aids. Some of these sounds are birds chirping, cicada noises, ocean waves and cars on a road - sounds that most of us take for granted, but for Laila - this level of hearing loss means she can’t hear many piano or guitar sounds in the music she dances to.
We’ve spent a bit of time speaking with Laila and her mum to better understand what they do to give Laila the same opportunities as all of her friends.
In a normal classroom setting, Laila doesn’t just arrive and sit at her seat. She has to make sure her hearing aids are clean and working - they use special batteries which need replacing at least once a week, she has to make sure Roger (a microphone which connects a teacher’s voice to Laila’s hearing aids) is fully charged and ready to be used by her teachers and classmates, she has to connect her multimedia hub to the whiteboard and laptop and she has to make sure her uniquely programmed headphones are connected to all devices.
Laila also has to make sure she is seated where she can see the teacher easily, is away from windows, fans and air conditioning units. Any background noise or reverberation means Laila misses information - throw mask wearing in and Laila misses even more.
The environment can really affect Laila’s hearing, any sudden drop in air-pressure (like a thunderstorm) can be excruciatingly painful for Laila - not to mention the fright she gets if an unexpected clap of thunder is super loud.
Listening fatigue is something that Laila experiences every day - she spends every waking minute trying to fill in the gaps, her brain is working hard to work out the messages her ears can’t send. In a dance setting, we are all so used to the fast-paced environment of “quick - learn this” “Follow on” “pick it up” this means Laila’s brain works in overdrive just trying to keep up. By the end of each day, Laila is exhausted - but her love of dance means she is up and eager to do it every single day.
If you are lucky enough to meet Laila, you will notice how much Laila concentrates, she will watch your face to lip-read, she will tilt her head and ask you to repeat what was just said, she will find her support crew - her friends, her teachers, her family and she will trust them to fill in the gaps. Laila is an amazing lip-reader, and has taught herself strategies that mean most of us don’t event notice how tricky some situations are for her.
we hope that by highlighting some of the struggles that Laila faces we shed some light on some of our amazing dancers that have additional challenges in their pursuit of their love of dance.