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Studying Audiology as a Cochlear Implant User

March 15th, 2015 by | Tags: , , , , | Comments Off

About four years ago, I first met Nicole, whose mother and mine are good friends. Nicole and I instantly hit it off and became fast friends. Every now and then our mothers, Nicole, my sister, and I will meet up. Currently, Nicole is a senior in college and is studying audiology to become an audiologist. Nicole has decided to share her experiences as an audiology student who is a cochlear implant user as well. 

She jumped, her eyes went wide and her mouth gaped open in shock, which slowly turned into a smile as she sat at a loss for words. This was the reaction of a woman who had just gotten her cochlear implant activated after losing all of her hearing many years prior; it was also in that moment that I knew I wanted to be an audiologist.  It was a moment filled with the vast array of overwhelming emotions that I and almost every other CI user have felt.  I had been following this patient’s case for two months at the hospital where I was completing my summer internship during my junior year of college.  I had observed her evaluation, surgery and now I was sitting watching this woman’s story come full circle as I simultaneously looked back on my own activation eleven years ago as a nine year old girl.

I didn’t always wanted to be an audiologist; Even as a senior in high school I thought it was the last thing I wanted to do. Actually I stumbled into the study of communication disorders, the prerequisite major/minor for graduate school for both audiology and speech pathology, by accident. I was sitting in a restaurant looking at the college handbook and said that was the major for me. My mom laughed and told me that was for audiology. That was 4 years ago; I ended up studying at Bridgewater State University and falling in love with the school and the science. It has been a tough journey that is far from over, but I haven’t looked back and have no regrets.

Undergraduate school focuses almost exclusively on speech-language pathology. The major is difficult, competitive, frustrating, and I love it. That may seem a little masochistic and maybe it is, but I love my classes and all that I am privileged to learn. It is an innovative field that is ever-changing and exciting. I have had the opportunity to conduct research and witness amazing things. Being successful in these mentally challenging classes and meeting like-minded individuals has given me confidence that I never had in high school.

So what’s different about being a student with cochlear implants studying communication disorders compared to everyone else?  Surprisingly the answer is not much.  I have used CART in a couple of my classes and have been asked to share my experience from time to time. Other than that, I was as clueless as any other freshman.  Even in my audiology class I went into the class feeling smug only to realize that I was still only a patient and had no idea about any of the science behind it all. I am so glad for that though and wouldn’t change it. It has granted me a different perspective and a newfound appreciation for those who have worked hard to help me hear so well.

There are some differences. I know what patients will be feeling and going through. I know the heartbreak, the uncertainty, the milestones and the joy that comes with being deaf and a cochlear implant user. I know that this along with the clinical knowledge I will learn will make me a good and empathetic audiologist to my future patients. Until that time comes I will keep working hard and trying my very best.

Nicole is senior at Bridgwater State University and currently double majoring in communication science/disorders and psychology. She is a self-proclaimed movie buff and enjoys traveling and playing with her dogs. She lost her hearing at age 7, received her first implant at age 9 and then went bilateral at 15. She lives in Massachusetts with her family.-Nicole P.


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