On any given day, 15-year-old Cruz Lemming can be found in the gym or on the footy field, earning his place on the Nudgee College rugby union open team.
Under bright-coloured headgear are two cochlear implants that help him interpret sounds, but profound hearing loss won’t stop the prop playing his best rugby.
In 2019 and at just 14 years old, Cruz was selected in Queensland’s 15 years and under rugby union side, catching the eye of keen Brisbane scouts who later offered him a scholarship to the private college.
“I’ve never been down on myself just because I have slightly worse hearing. I’ve got the devices that make me hear, and I am hearing normally,” he said.
Ten years ago, Gold Coast parents Tracy and Dion Lemming made the “heartbreaking” decision for their five-year-old son Cruz to undergo cochlear implantation surgery.
Cruz’s hearing had rapidly deteriorated over 18 months and while the technology would help him to hear and speak, Mrs Lemming said she felt torn.
“It’s a bit scary when you’re confronted with that. Cruz had a little bit of hearing left, but my husband and I both felt we were taking something off him,” Ms Lemming said.
“We said to him, ‘You’re going to have this operation that will help you with your hearing so you can hear like everyone else. But when you don’t have your hearing aids on, you won’t be able to hear anything’.”
Pronouncing the letter S and high pitch sounds were a struggle for young Cruz, but he soon overcame these difficulties with the help of audiologists, Ms Lemming said.
“When a little kid will ask ‘What are those?’, he will explain what it does, he’s pretty good at educating people and it’s never held him back but we’ve never made a big deal about it either.”
Cruz says he often shares his story with anxious families and their young children who he connects with at not-for-profit specialist support centre Hear and Say.
“They will come in with questions like ‘Will I be able to hear properly, will I be normal at school?’,” Cruz said.
“I’ll catch people staring at my head but it’s not a problem, it’s not every day you come across it. Some people would get annoyed, but I don’t care.”
Hear and Say audiologist Greer McDonald, who has assisted Cruz and his family over many years, says her work involves optimising hearing levels, testing his implants, and ensuring he has spare devices.
“As much as we rehabilitate hearing to the best we can, there will still be concerns with certain areas like noise.
“This will be a lifelong journey for Cruz and me. We do assessments every year.”
Celebrating Cruz’s “beautiful wins” with parents Tracy and Dion is a highlight of the job, Ms McDonald said.
“I enjoy that because I see him so regularly that you see them grow up as people. You see how the intervention has helped them.”
Hearing Awareness Week runs from March 1 to 7.
Thank you for stopping by and seeing this news article about “News & What’s On in Queensland’s Gold Coast Region” titled “Queensland rugby union prop Cruz Lemming says he won’t be sidelined by hearing loss”. This news release was presented by My Local Pages Australia as part of our QLD current news services.
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