Te Atatu-based Kathy Thomas has been singing since she was 18 years old. She had been plagued by a series of health issues before then, including a cholesteatoma (a collection of skin cells deep inside the ear) which was caused by a chronic ear infection and led to hearing loss, as well as Turner syndrome which can often lead to osteoporosis.
Around the time of her daughter Helen Rose’s birth 15 years ago, she developed a severe cold which led to further deterioration in her hearing and the onset of post-natal depression. The addition of hearing aids and three further surgeries gave her some degree of hearing, but she would often have setbacks.
Music became her solace and her happy place.
Kathy, who’s a self-taught singer, has sung in bands and at venues in West Auckland and throughout New Zealand since she was a teenager, with one of her career highlights being singing alongside 80’s band Ardijah.
She entered the Get Mad on the Mic karaoke contest, staged by Hapai te Hauora Tapui (Maori Public Health), with support from the Mental Health Foundation. She then went on to record a te reo Māori karaoke album a few years later.
Two years ago, Kathy was an extra on the TV series, Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, and has featured as a vocalist on a range of TV commercials, including the DB Export I’m Drinking it for You ad in 2019 and Meridian Energy in 2022.
“Music has been my stress release and my go-to,” she says.
It wasn’t until she received cochlear implants in early March this year that she could really start to connect with her hearing.
“It’s been the most amazing thing,” she says. “Receiving my implants is just the beginning of my journey to access sound – I know I have a way to go, but it’s a journey I’m so happy to take.
“This is a whole different way of hearing but I’m thankful that the implants have helped me process sound -- and hear better.
“I’ve always had my music to keep me grounded, but now I’m finally able to embrace sound in a way that makes me feel good.”