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Mackenzie Arnold: West Ham & Australia goalkeeper on her 'rollercoaster' journey with hearing loss

West Ham goalkeeper Mackenzie Arnold put off dealing with her hearing loss until the coronavirus pandemic forced her into action.

The Australia international didn't realise how reliant she was on lip-reading before the introduction of face masks began to make everyday life more difficult.

The 29-year-old's brother, who has worn hearing aids since childhood, encouraged her to see a specialist in London, and in April 2023, Arnold collected her own hearing aids for the first time.

While she doesn't yet wear them for matches or training sessions, Arnold told BBC Sport's Jo Currie about that life-changing moment and the impact wearing hearing aids has had.

"It's probably been something that me and my friends went back and forth about since I was 19 or 20 years old, but it was a conversation where people would say I would need hearing aids and I would think 'yeah whatever' and let it go," Arnold said.

"The first serious conversation was around Covid when everyone was wearing masks and I started to realise I was lip-reading a lot more. I really struggled around that time.

"I spoke with my brother who has worn hearing aids his whole life and told him that I would struggle in louder environments. It was a casual conversation at the start and he asked if I wanted him to get in touch with the hearing centre in London. That got the ball rolling and I went from there."

Mackenzie Arnold posing for photos with Australia fans
Mackenzie Arnold played all seven of Australia's matches at the 2023 Women's World Cup

Arnold was reluctant to resign herself to wearing hearing aids for the rest of her life but has now adjusted.

The reaction she got to her social media video announcing the news has had an overwhelmingly positive response, one that Arnold was not expecting.

"I didn't want to accept the fact I might need to wear hearing aids for the rest of my life," she said. "It was a challenge to accept it at the start. It was definitely a gradual process I had to get used to, but I love them now.

"I originally wanted to put the video out more for my benefit. I didn't want any questions, I didn't want to talk about it. It just helped me want to get on with it.

"On the flip of that, to see the response I got changed my mindset completely. The messages I got from young kids and their parents thanking me and saying I was an inspiration, I never thought that would happen.

"One mum reached out thanking me. Her daughter had struggled with it for so long. That made me realise I was changing the stigma around it, which is something I never thought I would do personally."

Despite the positive changes Arnold's hearing aids have made to her life off the pitch, she has decided not to wear them during games to avoid damaging them.

This comes with its challenges, particularly at times for Arnold's manager at West Ham, Rehanne Skinner.

"At the weekend [against Bristol City], I could see Rehanne getting frustrated because I couldn't hear a thing she was trying to tell me.

"There is a little bit of frustration when the crowd is a bit louder, but I try and find a break in play to go over and get the proper information."

Caitlin Foord and Mackenzie Arnold
Mackenzie Arnold is close friends with Australia team-mate Caitlin Foord, who is also based in London and plays for Arsenal

From the rain falling to keys jangling in her partner's pocket, hearing the simple things has made the biggest difference for Arnold.

But it's not just Arnold who has noticed the change.

"I used to whisper a lot when there were quite a few people in conversation because I couldn't keep up," she said. "I found myself withdrawing from conversations, which can be isolating, but I didn't realise that's why I was doing it.

"I went for breakfast with Caitlin Foord a couple of days after [getting the hearing aids] and she was like 'it's so nice to be able to sit and have a conversation with you in a loud environment and not have to repeat myself three times'.

"It's a rollercoaster that goes on but it's all worth it."

Watch the full interview with Mackenzie Arnold on Football Focus, Saturday, 3 February, 12:00 GMT on BBC iPlayer and BBC One.