When Tahlia-Rose Eldridge was in Grade 4 at Kennington Primary School she experienced something her schoolmates had been tuned into for years: she heard the school bell ring for the first time.

Born with moderate hearing loss, Tahlia, her family and teachers hadn’t realised just how much she wasn’t hearing.

“I’d developed all these adapting techniques,” she explains.

Fitted with hearing aids, Tahlia was initially overwhelmed by new sounds and the intensity of more familiar noises. She found herself whispering, worried that she was speaking too loudly.

“It took a couple of months to get used to hearing,” she says with a smile. “I had great support from the Bendigo Deaf Facility, based at Kennington Primary.”

Tahlia wants to give a big shout-out to Brooke Howman, Mel Henders, Teresa Barnes and Rachel Cain who continue to support her and offer advice.

These days you’d never know that Tahlia has hearing issues, and she doesn’t feel as though she’s missed out on anything because of it.

“I have a few Auslan skills, but I rarely use them,” she says. “But it does come in very handy when I’m serving deaf customers at the drive-through where I work.”

This year Tahlia is studying English Language, Further Maths, Maths Methods and Chemistry. In Year 11 she completed Biology 3/4 and Chinese Language 3/4 which has taken the pressure off her final year.

Tahlia provides her teachers with a little radio frequency system they wear as a lanyard to amplify their voice for her. It has worked well for her and dispelled any fears that her hearing issues would impact her VCE.

“During remote learning, some of my teachers recorded their lessons so I could be sure I hadn’t missed anything,” she says. “I’ve had great support from all my teachers.”

The lockdown, however, left all four of Tahlia’s family sharing one internet connection.

“It was pretty slow at times,” she says. “Though I couldn’t wait to be back at the college, something I really missed once I was back at school was being able to spend all day with our two Samoyeds.”

Tahlia’s hot study tip is to find a study plan that works for you.

“I love making lists,” she says.

Tahlia also highlighted how important it is to ask questions and access other resources if you don’t quite understand something.

With this phase of her life coming to a close, Tahlia is excited for what lies ahead. She hopes to study medicine and would love to be part of the La Trobe University Rural School of Medicine.

Despite spending more time than she would have liked in hospitals as a young child, Tahlia sees a place for herself in that setting, wanting to make a difference to patients’ lives.

She also hopes that her training will fulfill a long-term dream to become a rural doctor or maybe even work internationally with organisations such as Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) as a volunteer.

Tahlia has already had a taste of international travel. Highlights of trips to Canada and the US included dog-sledding along a frozen river in Whitehorse and being given a signed jersey from a National League ice-hockey player.

But not all her trips have been purely about fun.

In Year 9 at BSE, Tahlia was part of a group that spent six weeks in China on exchange. This whetted her appetite and the following year she travelled to Thailand and Laos with World Challenge—an opportunity to make a contribution as well explore parts of the countries on foot.

Her experiences abroad are even more inspiring given her hearing issues. Being dependent on any mechanical or technical aid could make some people reluctant to put themselves in challenging situations… not Tahlia.

She greatly admires anyone who focuses on their abilities rather than what they can’t do.

“My Mum and Dad have always said to me, ‘don’t take no for an answer’,” Tahlia says. “There’s a line in the film ‘We bought A Zoo’ that I love… ‘Sometimes, all it takes is 20 seconds of insane courage and I promise something good will come out of it’.

“We can all do much more than we realise. I would love to go back and share that quote with the shy kid I was at primary school.”