Phonak hEARo, Toyosi is an 18-year-old law student. Nigerian and Trinidadian born, Toyosi now is currently living in the UK. In recent years, she has used social media as a way to advocate for people with hearing loss and encourage others to be confident with hearing loss.
“Hearing loss often has negative connotations attached to it,” Toyosi says. “I am interested in influencing change on how it is viewed by changing the narrative.”
Toyosi has had a severe hearing loss in both ears since she was four-years-old and wears Phonak Nathos hearing aids. She communicates through speech and recently took the big step forward and started learning basic sign language.
Growing up in Nigeria, learning sign language was not really a conversation that she had with her parents. Using sign language often had negative connotations such as referring to people who sign as “deaf and dumb.” Having broken away from this narrative revolving around hearing loss, and with her new-found confidence, she has been encouraged to try something different.
To spread a different message about hearing loss, Toyosi uses her social media channels to share her content. Becoming a content creator always been something close to her heart. Inspired by her family and friends through the strength they have given her through love and support and pushing her to help others.
“When out with my friends, I would usually be the one taking pictures and recording videos because I loved looking back at the memories made,” Toyosi explains.
Using her love of taking pictures and vlogging, content creation was a perfect fit. Her social media platforms give her the opportunity to create inspiring, original media for her followers.
Toyosi’s Instagram feed is focused on lifestyle, beauty and fashion blogging. She recently started her YouTube channel with videos ranging from Q&A’s, chatting and playing games with friends.
She found herself motivated by other creators such as Tiwalowla, founder of Confident and Killing It. Toyosi explains that Confident and Killing It is a “self-love revolution, inspiring women to be confident, unapologetic and fearing.”
“Love yourself for all of you, and not just the parts society readily accepts,” Tiwalowla advised Toyosi.
Through being a creator and advocate, Toyosi overcame insecurities stemming from her hearing loss that she dealt with for years after revealing her differences to a society that was very judgmental and learning to accept herself as she is. She wishes she had found a hearing loss role model to look up to earlier in life but hopes she can help others who may be in the same position that she was in years ago.
The Phonak hEARo program has been an empowering experience for Toyosi. It allows her to connect with other people around the world from distinct cultures and being able to normalize deafness.
It reminds her of the purpose she aims to fulfill, which is to be a role model for others.
“Phonak has helped me become so confident in myself thereby breaking the stigma surrounding hearing loss,” Toyosi says. “Coming from a religious background, I used to pray to get my hearing back every New Years’ till I stopped and started embracing myself for who I am. This year was the first year I didn’t do that, I’m proud of myself!”
“Phonak has helped me become so confident in myself thereby breaking the stigma surrounding hearing loss.”View this post on Instagram
Recently, I attended an audiology appointment to find out my most recent hearing levels and fit them to a new pair of hearing aids. Everytime I go, I feel on top of the moon, but I won’t lie and say it doesn’t feel like my heart is in my mouth sometimes. I always remind myself that I’ve been to so many before and this wouldn’t be any different from the previous ones. You might wonder why I get scared each time. It’s because I have this fear that my hearing could be worsening without me realizing so. The fear of struggling even more than I already am creeps up on me and my heart starts racing. More often than not, doctors usually ask,” Do you have any idea what caused your hearing loss?” and I respond with “No.” Following this, is their reaction, more along the lines of shock, at me not knowing the cause. And again, I’d respond with a shake of my head. It’s an awful feeling, and while part of me wants nothing more than to put all the blame on Nigerian hospitals and their lack of awareness surrounding hearing loss, I’ve recently come to the realization that complaining and being a pessimist solves nothing. Instead, I will strive to change the narrative surrounding those who suffer from disabilities in a country like Nigeria #Phonak proud #PhonakhEARo 💕
Toyosi has collaborated with fellow hEARos such as Labbie and Luke Christian.
“Meeting Luke was so enlightening because we were able to learn about our different experiences and it was nice to actually meet someone, I have been talking to who has helped with my Phonak journey,” Toyosi says.
Together they filmed videos, which you can watch on YouTube.
Toyosi will continue to raise awareness bout hearing loss on her social media platforms.
“Raising awareness involves teaching people that being deaf doesn’t mean you are not normal, it makes us unique and gives us a story to tell,” says Toyosi.
Toyosi also wants to extend her advocacy efforts off social media efforts and into her law career.
“Most importantly, my goal is to be one of the best lawyers in the world defending groups of people who do not have that much of a voice such as women and people with disabilities, as well as being an advocate, influencing change, leaving this world knowing that I have made a difference and inspired others,” Toyosi says.
She urges the deaf and hard of hearing community to continue to push for change.
“I’d like to send a message out to believe in yourself and keep pushing on,” Toyosi encourages. “Do not stop until you achieve what you want, but also remember to take a break when things get hectic. Turn every negative thing into a positive thing because years down the line, little setbacks will not matter anymore.’