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I was born into one world and now live in another. I arrived as a normal healthy baby on one fine Saturday in August 1975. My proud parents lavished love on me and touted my accomplishments such as speaking in full sentences by the time I was a year old. The skies began clouding up when as a toddler my mother noticed I grew quiet and never responded when called. My parents just assumed I was going through a phase and had their hands full with my new baby sister. It wasn’t until I was three and a half, at the suggestion of an astute playgroup volunteer, that my hearing was tested. The results indicated that I had a severe/profound loss in both of my ears. Later we would discover this was a result of Enlarged Vestibular Aqueduct Syndrome, which in 1979 was unknown.

I loved my new hearing aids. My mom always gets tears in her eyes as she recalls my awe of hearing birds chirp outside the window and music being played in a store. I cannot say my childhood was easy since being the first mainstreamed deaf student in one’s school district was an experience of trial and error. However, I endured with the strong support of my parents, teachers, and staff, for which I am grateful. Things did become easier when I entered my teenage years and discovered athletics through track, cross country, and ski racing. Here, I was a member of a team and valued because I could contribute and not a hindrance because of what I could not do. The support network I had enabled me to graduate high school with strong academic honors using no assistance other than speech therapy sessions.

I started college at the University of Michigan’s Engineering program in the fall of 1993. College was fun and I flourished due to the strong verbal and auditory skills I possessed. I used lip-reading and my hearing aids and was able to do just fine, including being able to talk on the phone. I did use note-takers in my larger classes and probably should have used them more often but I was stubborn and did not want to stand out from the crowd.

Although Engineering is a tough program, I managed to graduate and started working in the summer of 1998 with Accenture (a management and IT consulting company) in Detroit. My employer was very supportive with assistive tools such as a text pager and conference call captioning. I enjoyed my seven years at Accenture, working my way up to the executive ranks before I decided to pursue graduate studies. Currently, I am studying for my MBA degree at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management and I love it! Kellogg keeps us insanely busy but it is such a fantastic program!

In addition to my recent change from working to student status, I have also gone through a change in my hearing. Thanksgiving of 2004 brought on a major ear infection which took away more of my residual hearing leaving me with a profound loss. Hearing aids were no longer strong enough for me so I opted to pursue a cochlear implant, which I received in April of 2005.

One of the big questions I always get about my CI is “how do you like it compared to your hearing aids?” The answer is not a simple one. I absolutely LOVE using my CI to hear environmental sounds. It has been a fantastic improvement over my hearing aids, even when I could use them well. I can hear sounds that I have never heard before such as a cell phone vibrating or the trains rumbling outside my window or the tick tock of my cuckoo clock. I actually tried on my hearing aid in my un-implanted ear (I got my “bad” ear implanted) just to see what it sounded like, and WOW – I cannot believe I ever thought hearing aid sound was good! However, a CI is a lot of work that requires time and patience. I am still working on my verbal recognition without lip-reading so I can get my cell phone back. Some progress is being made but I have a ways to go. Kellogg has been a wonderfully supportive environment to recover in and I am confident that the next few years will bring a whole new level of sound to me. I am just getting started so stay tuned!


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