5 Life Lessons With Naomi Yokoyama - Deaflympics Gold Winner
Proof that determination can overcome disability.
The Malala Fund (founded by the world’s youngest Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Malala Yousafzai) and hearing health not-for-profit, Cochlear Foundation, announce a partnership to raise awareness about the barriers keeping millions of children and young people with hearing loss from accessing a quality education. In 2012, Malala was attacked by a masked gunman for speaking out on behalf of girls on the right to learn, causing her left ear to go deaf. A cochlear implant She subsequently underwent a cochlear implant surgery. Since regaining a second chance at life and being able to hear again, Malala established the Malala Fund to provide every girl an opportunity to achieve the future she chooses.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 34 million children worldwide have disabling hearing loss. If children with hearing loss do not receive hearing healthcare and support in a timely manner, they often experience lower school performance, higher risk of dropping out of school, and less likelihood of accessing higher education. This problem is exacerbated in many parts of the world where children —especially girls —already face significant barriers to education. In Singapore, 1 in every 1,000 babies are born with severe or profound hearing loss. Naomi Yokoyama was deprived of a chance to hear the world when she was born with profound hearing loss. Fortunately, being born deaf never fazed the bowler, who would go on to clinch a historic gold in bowling during the 2017 Deaflympics. Naomi is a bilateral recipient of cochlear implants, and she is one of many young women with hearing loss with stories to share about how we can all Achieve Anything.
Here are her Five Life Lessons
Believe in yourself
I was born with profound hearing loss in both ears, and underwent surgery to have cochlear implants when I was 26 months old (for my right ear) and 11 years old (for my left ear). Growing up, my family were very sporty, and when I was younger, I took up ballet dancing to help train myself to listen to the tempos correctly. My sisters are both very into sailing, but i could never join in due to my implant. Instead, I needed to believe that there was a sport that was right for me, and believe that I could excel in it. I later started bowling, and realised that I loved it and that this was what I really wanted to focus on as I always wanted to be like my sisters. In 2015, I became part of Deaf Sports Association (DSA) and I represented Singapore in the Deaflympics for the first time in 2017, winning a gold medal.
It’s all about having the strength and power to believe in yourself and that you are better than you think. If there are people out there who can achieve their dreams at any time, so can you.
Have the patience to go through the process because at the end of it, you will get the result you want. Obstacles or challenges will defeated if you keep fighting for your dreams, they are there to help you become stronger and achieve your dreams!
Set yourself ambitious goals
With dedication and the right attitude, I believe any one of us has the power to achieve greatness.
Appreciate what makes you unique
Having an impairment doesn’t limit one’s life experience. Never see or label yourself as different from others just because they see you as deaf or a person with disabilities, because they just cannot see that we are special in our own ways.
Share your story
Having open and honest conversations is a solid first step in overcoming the obstacles associated with hearing loss, and shaping change in others. I want to share my story with others in the deaf community and help them find their voice. When we all come together, our collective voice can be extremely powerful.
The Achieve Anything program, a partnership between the Malala Fund and Cochlear Foundation, is one such avenue – youths and young adults all over the world can share their real-world experiences and challenges with hearing loss. I’m honoured to lend my voice to raising awareness for hearing loss and promoting equal rights to an education and early access to hearing healthcare and support for others in the deaf community.
To me, opportunities for the community to get to know people with different needs and challenges, to experience being in shared spaces are necessary and important. With greater information, there will be greater awareness, and this will lead to greater understanding, acceptance and respect for people.
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