The COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on people with hearing loss has been varied and widespread.
For 25-year-old Qais, a cochlear implant recipient who graduated from his university course in design in the UK, the pandemic disrupted his plans to launch his career. (See photo above: Qais meeting Elaine, a dynamic cochlear implant recipient from Uganda).
But, despite being stuck at home in lockdown, Qais found a silver lining. He focused his efforts on volunteering with the Cochlear Implant International Community of Action (CIICA).
“I graduated in 2019 and wanted a career in the design industry. I’ve found it difficult to secure a graduate job due to the pandemic. But I was fortunate to have my work with CIICA and all the valuable experience it’s brought me,” said Qais, who received his cochlear implant at age three.
A global support network
CIICA was launched in February 2021 and members include cochlear implant recipients, their families, professionals and organisations, including Cochlear. Its aim is to improve awareness, access and support for cochlear implant recipients. Qais has designed the organisation’s website and works continuously with the group.
But his involvement provided more than an opportunity to put his graphic design talents to good use.
“When I was a kid, I had very low self-esteem and low confidence. I used to feel embarrassed for wearing cochlear implants. Since I’ve become involved in CIICA and other organisations, I’ve met others who have gone through the same experience as me. It’s changed my perspective,” he says.
Qais helps organise and run regular online events, like CIICA Live to discuss the challenges people face, inviting hearing health experts and professionals to offer their perspectives as well as possible solutions.
Helping others is Qais’s greatest passion.
“My goal is to make a difference to those who face challenges in their everyday lives,” he says. “Launching the [CIICA] community during the pandemic highlighted the difficulties many people with hearing loss experience.”
By its first anniversary, CIICA’s membership had grown to include 80 organisations and 400 individuals from 52 countries around the globe.
“We have been having online discussions, through CIICA Live, every two months. I have invited professionals and doctors from around the world to share information and discuss different topics based on cochlear implants, hearing screening and more,” says Qais.
“The work I’m able to do has been a life-changing, incredible experience. I’m learning so much myself, but also able to help others.”
In addition to being profoundly deaf since birth, Qais was diagnosed with Usher Syndrome when he was 16, a genetic condition which affects eyesight as well as hearing. But that hasn’t held him back.
“Since graduating I’ve managed to find a job as a 3D creative designer. I will continue to do my work with CIICA as I’m passionate about the organisation. Every day, I learn something new through my work there.”
Learn more about CIICA and get involved. (Content that follows after clicking this link is not proprietary to Cochlear, and Cochlear bears no responsibility.)