Salome Kvaratskhelia, 30 years old, Tbilisi Lana Kvaratskhelia, 28 years old, sister
,,My diagnosis is bilateral sensorineural fourth-degree severe hearing impairment. In 2015 I first noticed having hearing problems and by that time I went to check up with the doctor, I had already lost 60% hearing in my right ear and 30% in my left ear. I started treatment, transfusions were done to stop the hearing loss process, but it didn’t help me. After some time, I lost 100% of my hearing in both ears. After the research, no specific issue of the problem had appeared, so the doctors decided that my immune system damaged my hearing.
I suddenly lost hearing in one ear, it was very difficult for me and I wanted to cry all the time. I thought, one day if I don’t hear the voice of my loved ones, how could I live? When I lost hearing in my second ear, I was already prepared, even to a point to morally support my concerned friends and relatives. I tried not to stay home all the time, but I still rarely left the house. I was somehow worried, that others had a hard time communicating with me. Then I slowly adjusted to the new normal, and I started going outside and meeting people again.
When Salome started having this problem and we didn’t know what the issue was, I had no idea and I had once said angrily – what’s wrong, are you deaf?! When this situation persisted, by then she had already gone to the doctor, but we thought that the doctors would take care of it and everything would be like before. One day, Salome came into the room, I told her something and she couldn’t hear me. I repeated one more time, louder, and again, she told me that she couldn’t hear in any of her ears. I started crying and Sali calmed me down. Later, she also encouraged us all and tried to help us maintain a positive attitude. She couldn’t understand what I said, but I kept refusing to write things down for her, making her get used to my facial expressions and that’s why she can understand me best.
I have the status of a person with a disability, but if I’m not mistaken, the law has changed in 2014, and people with hearing impairments no longer belong to this group. My currently assigned status is moderately disabled, which means that I can’t get the benefits from the social package, and neither can I get the pension. Only people under the age of 18 with hearing impairment are eligible for the social package and pensions are given only to those whose status was assigned before the law changed. I was 26 years old when I lost my hearing and they didn’t assign me to the beneficiary group, therefore I don’t receive social welfare either. Such an attitude from the state toward us is blatant indifference and injustice.
Nowadays the state places all the responsibility on us, to the family of a disabled person, which is morally devastating for us. My family doesn’t have the means to procure funds for surgery. The state determines disability status based on a meaningless law and unilaterally decides who can get help and who can’t. Even the welfare package for eligible people is so small, that you can barely get by. The young person needs to feel fully realized and the government has to do everything to provide fundamental help to them.
Communication with people and relationships with them makes me the happiest. Even now, talking to you is a kind of therapy for me. Hearing loss affected my communication with people a lot. I graduated from the law faculty but never worked in my field. I tried many things and worked in a lot of places – as a cameraman, in a call center, as an animator, a photographer. I could manage many things at the same time, but after hearing loss, I could no longer find a job.
Once I sent my resume for a position of a consultant; I went to the interview so well prepared that I knew what questions I would be asked and I would be able to answer everything, without any problems. They didn’t even notice that I couldn’t hear, but I didn’t want to lie and told them about my issue by myself. They told me they’d call me back, but they never did. While looking for a job, I very often faced similar situations and I gave up.
I’m a self-learned photographer, I love to take photos and I often conduct photo sessions for my children. I create compositions for photos and my dream is to have my own photo studio. I had an autumn photo session for my kids a few days ago. This is a job I’d love to do.
I have amazing girls. The oldest – Barbare is three years old and is already self-aware, so she communicates with me using hints all the time. When she wakes up in the morning, she touches my face and points to the window with a finger, it means that it’s already a new day and we should get up. Barbare doesn’t get tired and she can explain for hours what she really wants. When she comes back from kindergarten, I always ask how her day was. She explains, but when she can’t say everything, sometimes she gives up. It seems she doesn’t want to hurt me. Kato is a year and eight months old, sometimes she also uses hints. I want to learn more and it may sound a little selfish, but, I don’t want my children to tell things to someone else, or keep to themselves what worries them or makes them happy.
Barbare seemed to understand her mother’s condition from the beginning, or rather she got used to it looking at us. She was barely two years old and wouldn’t talk until Sali was looking at her. Some time ago, she wanted a Cocoa drink, her mother couldn’t hear it and Barbare pronounced it for her – ‘’Co-Co-a’’.
I was half deaf when I was working as a photographer. I tried very hard not to pay attention to my hearing problem and not to cause any discomfort to others. Later I realized that it was a bad approach towards myself. Now as soon as I enter the store or pharmacy, I say immediately that my hearing is impaired and they should assist me properly. Some people find it hard to believe – If I can speak, how am I not able to hear? People sometimes don’t know how to communicate with me, but if they want to, it’s not difficult at all. Now that everyone is wearing a face mask, it’s even more difficult for me to communicate with people.
Sometimes, even in hospitals, people have very unhealthy attitudes. Sali has children and obviously, she often has to go to the pediatrician. As usual, one of us always goes with her, but one time it so happened that nobody could accompany her and she had to go alone. When she came back from there, she told me that she couldn’t understand something and asked me to call the doctor. When I called the doctor and she found out who was calling, she complained and requested not to let Sali go there alone, because she get tired of communicating with her by writing. I was so shocked, I couldn’t reply. Unfortunately, there are many such cases.
People can replace anything. For example, after hearing loss, I started watching movies with subtitles, chatting with friends via messenger, and so on. But the voice of my children is the only thing I couldn’t replace with anything. To hear their voice, I need implant surgery. I applied to the Ministry of Health to finance my surgery, I’ve been waiting for my turn for 5 years now, but the priority is young people under 18 and this process may be endless, and my family cannot afford my surgery. My friends and family decided to create a group on Facebook – ‘’let Sali hear her children’s voice’’ and started a campaign to collect funds for the surgery. The cost of one implant is 72,000 GEL.
With this group, we already collected up to 7000GEL. In addition, we submitted a request for funding to the City Hall. At this point, we thank the City Hall for funding us with 18,000 GEL, even though they didn’t have this obligation and at this point, we have a total of 25,000GEL. The deadline for using funding of City Hall is three months, one month has already passed, so we try to mobilize the funds at least for one implant, which will allow Sali to hear 100% in one ear. We are short on time and the support of the community will help us greatly.
For me it’s very difficult to ask something from others, in general, I rather prefer helping people myself. Therefore, I was ashamed and reluctant to invite friends to this group, but then I realized that I ask that for the kids. I want them to have more communication with their mother – to tell me their problems and share their joy with me. Once I realized that I started sharing the page and inviting friends.
Author: Ida Bakhturidze
Photographer: Geda Darchia
Translation: Mariam Kajrishvili
The project is implemented with the support of UN Women and with the financial support of the Joint Fund for Sustainable Development Goals, within the UN Joint Program – “Transformation of Social Security for People with Disabilities in Georgia”.
The views expressed in the publication are those of the author (s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations Women or the Joint Foundation for Sustainable Development.
Author’s note – You can transfer money for Salome’s surgery to the following account numbers:
Bank of Georgia