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Defying New Heights: Rock Climbing With Deafness

Maria Terekhova is an 18 year old professional rock climber from Kazakhstan with incredible willpower and commitment to achieve. As a young child, Maria completely lost her hearing. At 8 years old, she received a cochlear implant. In the following years, Maria became a professional athlete in the sport of rock climbing. She recently competed at the World Junior Championships which were held at the hometown of MED-EL Headquarters in Innsbruck, Austria!


Hi Maria, tell us about yourself!

My name is Maria, I’m 18 years old, and I was born in Almaty, in Kazakhstan. I’m studying at the dental college to be a dental laboratory technician. Regular trainings in rock climbing and studying take up a lot of my time, so I don’t have too much time for other hobbies. If I get some free time, then I like to go for a walk with my friends.


How did you lose your hearing?

I don’t exactly remember how I lost my hearing. My grandmother told me that it gradually faded. When I was five years old, I was diagnosed with profound sensorineural hearing loss. At that time, the world of sound ceased to exist for me. It was very difficult for me to communicate with friends. My parents tell me that at that time, I was unable to say complete sentences, only single words. Since the hearing aids did not offer me any help, I had to learn lip-reading.

After some time, my parents decided that a cochlear implant was the right option for me, and I got my implant in 2007 at the age of eight and it changed everything.


How has your life and your family’s life changed after getting a CI?

I heard sounds straight after being activated. The time learning to hear with my implant and doing lots of rehabilitation passed by quickly and successfully thanks to the support from my family. Soon after receiving my implant, I was able to start at a regular school. Little by little, a new social circle and new hobbies appeared in my life. From memory, I think I quickly got used to it!


How and when did your interest in rock climbing start?

On my seventh birthday, my parents organized for me to have a birthday party at a rock-climbing centre. To make sure I looked good at doing at it in front of my friends, I trained for a short time before the party. I quickly found out that I really liked climbing, and after that birthday party I started to climb regularly. At first, I only went to training once or twice a week. After my cochlear implant operation, I noticed an improvement in my balance, and my technique began to improve at the same time. Once I realized how much I had improved with my implant, I decided to do it professionally.


How often do you train?

I train five times a week, from Monday to Friday. Sometimes I do two hours, three hours, and sometimes even four hours a day. This can of course be very tiring, because the training activities are difficult and I have to study alongside. I’m given certain tasks, how to climb, and if it doesn’t work out then I discuss it with the coach – why it didn’t work out that way, what needs to be corrected, where it is necessary to put in more effort or to work at the technique. My cochlear implant enables me to communicate clearly with my coach and the other members of the team that I train with. During training, I fasten the RONDO with my hair, and it holds really well and never falls down.


What does rock climbing mean to you?

My cochlear implant returned me to the world of sound. When I started rock climbing, I became even more open minded and self-confident. I like the competitive spirit, and every day I try to learn something new both in sports and in college. This is a challenge not only to my academic performance, but to my body as well. But above all things, I like that rock-climbing competitions give me the opportunity to travel a lot,  and communicate with new people.


What does it feel like, to participate in competitions of such a high level?

I have taken part in many international competitions, for example competing four times in Asia. Thanks to rock climbing, I was in many countries: Malaysia, Norway, Austria, and Indonesia. There were many times when fans or local people would come up to talk with me or ask to have their picture taken with me.  It was a great feeling being able to confidently talk and communicate with them.


What are your plans for the future?

The Asian Championships competition is coming up in Japan, and I really want to get there. In terms of studies, I want to enter the dental department at the Medical University of St. Petersburg. I’m ready for all obstacles and I’m not afraid to try new things!


Could you give a word of advice to other young people with hearing loss?

They have to lead an active lifestyle! It’s also very important to be a person of an open disposition, develop self-confidence and find a job to your liking. For those who could benefit from a cochlear implant, I would advise to agree to getting the device without a moment’s hesitation!



Thanks, Maria. We wish you good luck in competitions and in your studies!



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