Resilience: Leona Fields’ Journey Through Hearing Loss and Advocacy 

By Morgan Reid

As a breast cancer survivor, helpful community member, and compassionate philanthropist, Leona Fields’ hearing loss journey is one of determination, strength, and confidence.   

Growing up, Leona had typical hearing. That changed at 25 years old when she got sick with a common cold. After the congestion had gone away, Leona realized that the muffled sound in her left ear did not. She went to her doctor and was shocked to find out that she was experiencing profound hearing loss. Her immune system had attacked the cochlea in the ear; once damage like this occurs, it can’t be undone.  

She was fitted with a hearing aid that helped amplify the sounds around her. A few years later, she began to notice symptoms in her right ear as well. Buzzing, high pitched sounds, dizziness, and muffling. After a visit with her audiologist, she was given the news that she had Ménière’s Disease.  

Ménière’s Disease is a chronic disorder of the inner ear that causes vertigo, tinnitus, hearing loss, and a feeling of fullness in the affected ear(s). Symptoms ebb and flow and can become so severe that individuals with the disorder lose their balance and fall. It’s estimated that one third of Ménière’s Disease cases are of an autoimmune origin, but researchers have not yet determined a definite cause.  

Unfortunately, Leona’s right ear had significant nerve damage caused by Ménière’s and it was progressing. Leona had a second hearing aid fitted for the ear, but her hearing aids just weren’t helping anymore. Both of her ears now had profound, progressive hearing loss and she couldn’t communicate the way she wished. She began to search for a better solution. 

In 2015, despite low eligibility, Leona’s determination and self-advocacy yielded results; she received her first cochlear implant. Doctors warned that the chance of it working was slim, but Leona knew it was worth taking a chance. Cochlear implant recipients, with the help of their audiologist, need time to re-train their nerves and brain to get used to hearing again.  For most, this takes 3-6 months. For Leona, this took 2 years. Her dedication and strength, despite what others told her was possible, allowed her to hear again.  

Now, it’s important to know that hearing loss didn’t change Leona’s lifestyle; instead, she adapted and self-advocated for accommodations so that she could reach every goal she set for herself. Leona worked full-time in finance at York University for 25 years. She credits them as very helpful throughout her hearing loss journey- they provided special equipment, CART providers, and listened to her changing accessibility needs over the years. Having an inclusive employer made all the difference to her; if she didn’t have access to support and assistive technology in her workplace, she wouldn’t have been able to succeed. She considers herself fortunate to have this access that not everyone else has.  

After Leona’s battle with early-stage breast cancer, she was ready to give back to her community. She became involved with the Canadian Breast Cancer Society and fundraised on their behalf for many years.  

Her latest altruistic act started with connecting with the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association. Leona had attended events and enjoyed CHHA resources for many years. Leona was reaching a new stage of life and was looking for an opportunity post-retirement that complemented her skill set. That’s when she decided to join our financial committee after seeing a call for applicants online.  

After learning more about CHHA’s funding, she set out on a mission to help. Through her hard work, Leona raised over $6000 through a peer fundraising campaign, or what we call “DIY fundraising”.  

Leona extends her thanks and appreciation to her incredible network for their generosity. When asked what she would tell someone else about giving to our organization, she passed along, “CHHA is a great organization that helps a lot of people with hearing loss. They provide information, resources, and courses to help people accept their hearing loss, but also to create supportive communities for people with hearing loss. They have a limited budget and limited government funds. If you can afford to give, it helps everybody.” She believes that once the issue was explained, folks were generous and happy to know they’re contributing to people that need it.  

Her support of CHHA didn’t stop there. She has become a mentor through our mentorship program to coach people with hearing loss one-on-one. Through mentorship, Leona hopes to leave the impression that hearing loss is nothing to be embarrassed about, that we’re all made exactly how we should be, and that self-advocacy is the greatest skill someone can learn during their hearing loss journey. 

Leona has been able to help herself heal by sharing her story. She has found comfort in processing her experiences out loud. She believes that mentorship doesn’t just help the mentee, but also the mentor. For more information about our program, or how to become connected with her, click here.  

If you’re feeling inspired and want to contribute to CHHA, please click here or contact us directly to start your own DIY fundraising campaign.  

We’re incredibly thankful for Leona’s hard work fundraising. We would like to extend our gratitude to Leona and her network for their generosity supporting CHHA and Canadians with hearing loss from coast-to-coast. 

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