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'I was living in a noise-canceling world': Kyra Mahinay on navigating life with a hearing impairment

By AYIE LICSI Published Mar 05, 2024 4:41 pm

It's not just the elderly who get burdened with hearing impairment. Even at a young age, a person can become hard of hearing, too.

This was the case for model and real estate salesperson Kyra Mahinay, who you may know from the sapphic McDonald's ad from 2023. Since she was five years old, Kyra had a hearing impairment that still affects her to this day.

"It started with an ear infection that caused both my eardrums to burst," she told PhilSTAR L!fe. "I've had holes on my left and right [ears]."

Kyra likened what the world sounds like through her ears to having noise-canceling earphones on all the time. With the condition, the model used to ask people to repeat themselves to hear them better, but it hasn't always been received well by some.

"People used to bully me. 'Ah, bingi!'... So of course, you go to people who would understand you, who would be more patient with you."

Growing up, Kyra wanted to get treatment for her ears but the stigma around hearing loss and how it's a condition for the elderly stopped her from getting the help she needed.

"I wanted to have a hearing aid, even an operation with my ears, when I was younger but then my ENT doctor said I had really tiny ears," she told L!fe.

"Ayun let’s wait for it to grow, eh hindi siya lumaki. ‘Yun 'yung sinasabi ko na, 'Okay, I have to live with this,' and 'di ako pinush ng parents ko to have a hearing aid because of the stigma."

Hearing loss in the Philippines

A national survey conducted in 2020 comprising 2,275 adults and children found that 7.5% of children under the age of 18 experienced moderate hearing loss with 14.7% of adults between the ages of 18 to 65 years old experiencing hearing impairment. Meanwhile, 49.1% of adults aged over 65 were affected by hearing loss.

Hearing loss comes with age as well as other factors like loud noises and too much earwax, according to the Mayo Clinic. Some symptoms or signs that you have lost your aural faculties include muffled speech and other sounds, trouble understanding words, asking others to speak more slowly and loudly, turning up the volume of TV or other media, and ringing in both ears.

Because hair cells in your ears can't grow back when your hearing is impaired, there are other ways to compensate for hearing loss such as learning to lip-read or trying devices to amplify sounds like hearing aids.

Navigating life hard of hearing

As she got older, Kyra's eardrums healed but when she got her ears checked by a doctor, they discovered scarring and that her hearing impairment was moderately severe.

"Lumalala ['yung hearing impairment] through time. Kasi even if both my eardrums were healed, my nerves were actually severed na. Di na babalik yung normal hearing ko when I was 1-4 years old," she said.

In recent years, the model got a hearing aid to help hear the world better. It was like her "noise-canceling" hearing turned into transparency mode.

"Sobrang na-boost 'yung confidence ko sa maliit na bagay (the hearing aid) na 'di mo alam kung paano nakakaaffect with your lifestyle."

Recently, she was fitted by Manila Hearing Aid with the new Phonak Lumity Slim, a device with a sleeker design compared to other bulkier hearing aids. Wearing the device has helped her ears adapt to different environments. She was even able to wear it as she watched Taylor Swift's Eras Tour in Tokyo.

"Being inside the Tokyo Dome, 55,000 people na sumisigaw, 'di siya masakit sa tenga because na-ba-balance niya yung noise," Kyra shared, adding that with the device, it's like she can hear the Midnights singer singing directly as it has a feature that amplifies speech.

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"My partner's a DJ. How ironic... There are moments when she plays music, when di pa ako nag-hearing aid, nahihirapan pa ako. But then right now, nababalance eh. It’s not as loud for me as before," she added.

The real estate salesperson also gets asked by her clients and friends about her hearing aid, which for her is a good thing.

"Some people are really curious. My friends, [they would say,] ‘Kyra, oh you’re not bingi anymore! Can we try it, can we try it?’ They would really try it on themselves. They were amazed," she said.

Despite the stigma surrounding hearing loss and wearing hearing aids, for Kyra, it's not something one should be ashamed of.

"This is me. There’s nothing wrong with me. Of course, we are having improved versions of ourselves over time and that’s what happened. Na-improve pa ako because nagka-hearing aid ako."

Manila Hearing Aid offers the new Phonak Lumity series, a generation of lifestyle-centric hearing aids that suit different needs.