Curtin alumna Felicity Bleckly discovered her love of playing the piano as a child, but when she lost her hearing, she thought she would never play again.
Unknown to Felicity, a bad case of measles when she was nine-years-old had affected her cochlea – a spiral cavity in the ear containing the receptor organ for hearing. By the age of 35, after a gradual loss of hearing, Felicity had become profoundly deaf.
Felicity’s deafness forced her to move away from the music industry and take on financial and marketing roles. Eventually, her growing interest in communication using new media inspired her to pursue an online degree in internet studies at Curtin University.
“I had given up on my education twice – at Avondale College in 1969 and University of Technology Sydney in 1994 – because I couldn’t hear well enough to attend lectures. Doing the degree online was extremely important because I wasn’t deaf on the internet,” Felicity explains.
Part-way through her course, Felicity underwent an operation to have a cochlear implant fitted in her left ear – an electronic medical device that replaces the function of the damaged inner ear.
Felicity’s life improved drastically after the implant.
“Having a cochlear implant returned me to the hearing world. I got my life back. I [was] able to play the piano again,” she says.
Felicity Bleckly and her husband, Rob.
Recognising the potential of the internet, in 2003 Felicity started the Cochlear Awareness Network, a website designed to provide support to people who have a cochlear implant. The site encourages people to draw inspiration from stories of ‘implantees’ who have struggled through hearing loss.
“We get 1500 or so people visiting the site each month,” says Felicity. “Many feel more empowered to do something about their own hearing loss [after reading the stories].”
In early 2015, Felicity was encouraged to take part in the first International Music Festival for Children, Youths and Adults with Hearing Disorders ‘Beats of Cochlea’, held in Warsaw, Poland in July, where musicians with hearing difficulties performed on stage.
Felicity progressed past the qualifying round and took part in the final concert, along with 12 other participants, where she performed Ballade pour Adeline.
“My recent trip to Poland to play piano in the Beats of Cochlea has reawakened my dream to study piano and complete AMusA,” Felicity says, referring to the Associate Diploma in Music, Australia.
“I would also like to do a master [degree] and perhaps PhD in the area of language acquisition, how deafness impacts on this and how having a cochlear implant can impact on this.”
Name: Felicity Bleckly
Studied: Bachelor of Arts (Internet Studies)
Area of study: Humanities