"Has your daughter been abused?" the doctor asked Rhianna Clarke's mother, as he tried to diagnose the quiet and timid teenager sitting in front of him.
She wasn't responding to questions and was incredibly withdrawn. He'd assumed she was just pretending not to hear him.
Horrified, Rhianna's mother started to worry if the doctor might be right.
WATCH: The Deaf Divide'. Post continues after video.
It was a Year 9 science class that had first prompted Rhianna's family to investigate.
"Rhianna have you done your homework?" the teacher had asked. But the work had been assigned to the class verbally, and Rhianna had completely missed it.
A school nurse flagged that something might be wrong, and so doctors began investigating. But it would take multiple medical experts to find the right diagnosis thanks to inconclusive hearing tests. The aforementioned doctor hypothesised abuse, while another asked her family is she could perhaps just be making up her behaviour for attention?
Rhianna had grown up assuming everyone struggled to hear. She'd never met anyone who was deaf, and over time she'd learnt how to 'fit in' with the hearing world as best she could.
"At its peak I couldn't hear very much at all. I could hear some sounds, but I got very good at faking it," the now 38-year-old told Mamamia.
"When I was with a group of people, I would laugh not even knowing what they were laughing about. You just to learn how to cope even though you don't really know what's going on."
Aged 14, Rhianna found herself sitting opposite a hearing professional who diagnosed her as deaf after a single conversation. From there, everything changed.
She got her first set of hearing aids, and then aged 26 Rhianna decided to get a cochlear implant which she credits with "changing her life."