Hey guys! Long time, no talk! I can’t believe I haven’t updated this blog since April! Huge apologies for that — I’ve just been so incredibly busy these past few months – mainly with starting my new jobs! Starting a new job with a cochlear implant can be quite a different experience from back when I started new jobs without the ability to hear. This post will explain why.
First off, a little bit of background information. I left my old job at WebiMax at the end of April. I worked there for about 2 years and 7 or 8 months, so really close to 3 years. When I first started working at WebiMax I did not have my cochlear implants yet, so I relied solely on e-mails and instant messages to communicate. After getting my cochlear implant I saw my roles at WebiMax grow and with my new ability to hear on the phone and to hear audio like in YouTube videos, my usual duties became much easier to perform and I was promoted to Assistant Marketing Manager and later Digital Marketing Manager – SMO. I can’t really discuss why I decided to leave my old job other than to say I knew it was time and I needed a change.
Applying for New Jobs With a Cochlear Implant
I started to apply for a new job quickly after recovering from surgery with my 2nd cochlear implant. I think I got really serious about it in January. When I last counted, I sent out over 100 job applications from January – May. So, my ability to hear combined with my skills and experience didn’t make this process any easier. However, when I did interview for positions, I felt that it always went much smoother and I was a lot less anxious than I was three years prior when I interviewed for jobs before getting my cochlear implant. I think I interviewed with about 3 or 4 companies in person and did 2 or 3 phone interviews (that never went further from that) with different companies. I very rarely had to ask anyone to repeat themselves in these interviews which I think helped me a lot. I think sometimes people would look at me weird for my cochlear implants, but they very rarely asked about them (probably because legally they were afraid they couldn’t). I felt like my phone interviews were clumsy since I still didn’t have strong phone skills yet. I always wanted to try to avoid them, but most people wanted a phone interview before bringing me in, so I just kind of had to deal with it. During my first in-person interview with Penn Medicine, whom I accepted a job offer from (more on that later), I opened up about my cochlear implants to the second interviewer and shared my story and how I was writing a book about it. That’s something I normally didn’t do at interviews, but it felt right since I was interviewing to work with a medical company. The interviewer was very intrigued by my story and this helped me to open up more not just about that experience, but all of my work experiences in general.
The first offer…
I accepted my first job offer in the beginning of April to work as an SEO Marketing Strategist. There was a few strange things about working here. First off, I almost didn’t go to the job interview. Becker’s is located in Pennsauken, an area I wasn’t too familiar with – so we got really lost when my dad drove me there and I was frustrated and running late to the interview. I was still waiting to hear from Penn as well, but the job did sound good. The people were incredibly friendly and I loved their advertisements and the tone they used and the way the company was a family business. I initially had a phone interview with HR which went extremely well and then the in-person interview also went well. However, someone else they interviewed had a bit more experience and they decided to hire her instead of me…
But it didn’t work out with the girl they initially hired, and less than 2 weeks after being told I didn’t get the job, I was contacted again and made an offer which I accepted immediately.
Working for Becker’s was pretty good. The people who work there are all some of the nicest people I’ve ever met in my life. Although my time at Becker’s was short, I was able to do many different things. For the first week or two I watched a lot of training videos on Google Analytics and SEO which were provided to us by a marketing partner. These videos were extremely helpful and I didn’t have to worry at all about whether or not they had caption because I could hear them perfectly with no issues.
One thing I had a hard time getting used to or adjusting to was that they didn’t use instant messaging like WebiMax did…everyone had a phone and they called each other if they needed something. My phone used to give me really bad anxiety. I was always afraid my boss would try to call me and I wouldn’t hear it and he’d think I was ignoring him and I’d get in trouble. Sometimes I’d hear one of my co-workers phones go off and think it was mine and try to answer my phone only to realize it wasn’t ever ringing. I had a hard time deciphering between my phone ringing and my co-worker’s phone ringing. Once I even had a panic attack and emailed my boss saying “Hey I’m not ignoring you if you call me and I don’t answer, I just have trouble hearing it”. He was always very understanding.
My co-worker/office mate and I had cubicles right across from each other with a giant wall in between, so sometimes she’d try to talk to me through the wall even though we couldn’t see each other. This was great because I could hear her with no problem – something I never could’ve done prior to getting a cochlear implant. However, sometimes she’d be talking to someone else or on the phone and I’d mess up and answer her because I thought she was talking to me. I had a hard time knowing who she was talking to or when someone was talking to me. When someone was on the phone near me with a client I would also struggle to focus on my work. I’d hear their whole conversation and focus on that instead. Sometimes I wanted to take my cochlears off so I wouldn’t be distracted, but I was afraid that would make me look rude or that I’d end up missing something important when someone did need to talk to me.
In the short couple of months that I worked at Becker’s I was able to join in many meetings with vendors which was always neat. I loved seeing the new products they had to offer us and the people were usually very nice. I also met with some designers and other partners. Once we even took them out to lunch with us. I never had to ask anyone to repeat themselves and I could always hear everything – even when we talked in the restaurant which was kind of dark.
I was much more relaxed working at Becker’s probably than I was working at any other job I’ve ever had. I didn’t have to focus so hard to hear what people were saying. I could perform my job and hear everything just like everyone else.
I left my job at Becker’s in July. It was a very difficult decision to make, but The job at Penn was more in line with my career goals and interests and paid more, plus it would work better with my school schedule when I went back for my MA and taught in the fall.
Transitioning to Penn Medicine
While it was hard for me to leave my job at Becker’s and a bit of a risk (it was a great job with great people and they had to fill the position ASAP, so if things didn’t work out, there would be no turning back), I knew in my heart that I was doing the right thing. SEO was a small part of what I do. The large part of what I do is writing and social media, which I didn’t have the opportunity to do at Becker’s, but it would be my main responsibilities at Penn.
After an offer was made which I gladly accepted after months of working out fine details and waiting, I had a lot of phone calls to make with many different people including my boss, human resources, and the people conducting my background check. Many of these phone calls took place in the car on my way home from working at Becker’s as I finished my final two weeks. Despite the noise of the busy highways and traffic, I never struggled to hear anyone. This was a major accomplishment for me.
Before my first day on the job, I had to attend an all day orientation where there was probably 50 people or more in attendance. I had to do many group activities and ice breaker activities. In the past these would always be really difficult for me to participate in because I’d struggle to hear the person in charge of orientation and all of the people in the group. This was also taken place in a very large conference room where sometimes people speaking would be more than 50 feet away from me, but I could still hear every single word everyone said. It made it so I didn’t feel nervous or anxious at all.
I’ve now been at Penn for slightly more than 2 months and it has been a very fast paced but exciting journey. I know that I definitely made the right decision to leave Becker’s and take on this position. I am so happy where I’m at. I am still afraid of the phone, but it doesn’t matter too much. I’ve only had to use it for Sprinklr trainings and to call in for meetings, but that doesn’t happen too often. We usually just communicate through IM, e-mail, or in person.
I help out a lot with YouTube marketing. I watch the videos and update the titles and descriptions to be more SEO-friendly. I never have to worry about having someone else watch them for me and tell me what they’re about like I used to do when I worked as a social media marketer for WebiMax prior to getting my cochlear implants.
I am confident in my new role and feel really comfortable talking with my boss and my co-workers. I don’t get as anxious as I did at some jobs in the past. Sometimes I felt like my hearing held me back when I worked at WebiMax. Not holding me back career-wise, of course (I was promoted numerous times), but until I got my cochlear implant, I worked for over a year or 2 without being able to hear my co-workers and effectively communicate with them in-person which made me feel like I never knew what was going on and like I never got to know my co-workers too well or befriend them. When I finally did get my cochlear implants, it was like the friendship shipped have sailed – I mean they were people I’ve already know for a long time, just never got to really KNOW and it seemed like it was too late.
I get along really well with my new coworkers. I can be a very serious person and I’m a bit of a workaholic, but I have fun with them sometimes, too. Once in awhile I go out to lunch with one or more of them or go on a run for frozen yogurt or fruit smoothies or just Dunkin Donuts. It’s easier to make friends with them and to talk with them because I don’t have to ask them to repeat themselves a million in one times. I can pretty much always hear them and follow them.
I’ve also been enjoying working in Philly. There’s so many sounds that I am constantly exploring in this busy city. Everyday I’m made more aware of the wonderful gift the Lord has bestowed on me when he granted me my hearing. Commuting to and from work like I do now wouldn’t have been possible before. Every morning I have to buy my patco ticket, septa tokens, and listen to the overhead telling me where I’m at and when I’m at my stop. I order food from food trucks, nearby restaurants, and dunkin and never have any problems (septa being the exception…but my problems aren’t due to my hearing impairment, but that’s another story).
I think having my cochlears has definitely helped to open this door for me and aided in the success I’ve had so far. I’m excited to see where this takes me in the years to come.
What’s Next: Teaching.
Becker’s and now Penn are just the beginning.
Next stop? Teaching. This is so exciting for me. I’ve wanted to be a teacher since I was about 11 or 12 and worked for a summer camp, but I never thought it was a possibility. How could I possibly teach a class when I wouldn’t be able to hear my students and address their concerns and answer any of their questions? Even after receiving my cochlears, it didn’t seem possible. I couldn’t teach elementary school because that would mean going back to school to get teaching certification which would involve student teaching. Student teaching naturally takes place in the day, so I wouldn’t be able to keep my job and student teach. I couldn’t afford to give up my job. I also couldn’t become a professor and teach college level because I’d need to get an MA for that, something I couldn’t afford.
Or so I thought.
In March, I received an email from the Department of Writing Arts at Rowan about the TEP (Teaching Experience Program) available for select MA in Writing Students. Through this program I’d be able to teach as an adjunct professor (and get paid for it) while working towards my MA in Writing. My dream of becoming a teacher was suddenly a very real reality for me. I truly felt like God was calling me to do this.
Long story short, I applied and was accepted.
I attended orientation for the TEP program a month ago for three days. It felt so good to be back on campus again. I got emotional walking past and listening to some of the sermons going on early in the morning before orientation began because it was the first time ever I could actually really hear them.
Orientation went very well and was so much fun. It was my first time ever being in class and being able to hear both the professor and the students in the class. I felt so much more relaxed and less anxious. I got to know my classmates pretty well already and felt very comfortable and open, something I never felt before in the classroom.
I teach my first class on September 2nd and have classes later that week. I’m both excited and completely terrified to begin this next chapter in my life and to experience life as not just a student, but a graduate level student with bilateral cochlear implants.
Stay tuned in the upcoming weeks for a post on what it’s like to be a teacher and a student with cochlear implants!
Since getting my cochlear implant last year I have had many people come to me and ask me questions about it. I love answering questions about my cochlear implant and I love that people want to ask about it. It’s important to ask a lot of questions especially if you are considering having the procedure done yourself. Getting a cochlear implant is the best thing I’ve ever done, but it doesn’t change the fact that it’s still surgery. You need to know the risks and what to expect to determine if it’s right for you (which I obviously decided it was for me). Your surgeon shouldn’t mind answering your questions, and if he does, then that right there should be a red flag for you that you need to find another surgeon.
The first time I met Dr. Wilcox a year ago I came to him with a grand total of 32 questions. He answered every single one of them without hesitation. He wasn’t annoyed at all by any of my questions; he was more than happy to answer them and asked if I had any more for him! Here are the 33 questions I asked my surgeon prior to my first cochlear implant surgery:
- What are the risks?
- Are cochlear implant patients more likely to get meningitis? Should I get a meningitis shot? (The answer to this was no by the way. I never did get a meningitis shot.)
- Can the surgery cause an increase in headaches or migraines? (Another no.)
- Is there any chance the magnets will react to metal or other materials? (No reactions but my external magnet does stick to things which I think is fun lol)
- After it heals will I be able to put things in my hair and/or wear hats? (Yes I can but some hats cause my magnet to fall off I’ve found).
- Will I lose my residual hearing? (This is usually a yes for most people. I am the exception. I still have the same amount of residual hearing. It depends on whether or not your surgeon hits the nerve. Mine was able to avoid it, but they usually can’t avoid hitting it).
- Do you just do one implant at a time? Which ear do you suggest doing first? Should I have them both done eventually? (This depends on your surgeon. Mine does one at a time and it didn’t matter which one I did first. They usually like to do the worst ear first but mine are the same. He recommended I do both but said it was always my choice.)
- How long have you been performing the surgery for? (I forget the answer, but it’s a long time lol)
- Will I be able to use headphones after everything is healed? (This was a yes but I have to avoid metal ones because they can stick to the magnet).
- What is the chance that I’ll be able to talk on the phone once implanted? (He couldn’t really give me an answer because everyone is different, but I am able to talk on the phone with ease now. It did take me about a month to get to that point though).
- How soon can I be activated after surgery? (I was activated exactly 1 month post surgery).
- How often should I go for a mapping? (This kind of depends on the person. I believe in the beginning it was once a month then it dropped down to once every 6 months and eventually once a year I think but if you’re not happy with the mapping you can request them sooner).
- Do they take batteries? Are they rechargeable? If not, where do you buy them? (I have three rechargeable batteries and one that is not. I don’t like the none-rechargeable one to be honest. I bought the batteries from the hospital since I have trouble finding them in stores but I’m told some people can find them at the drug store. Online too.)
- Are the implants water resistant? (No, they are not but there is an aquacase that makes it water proof! :))
- Do the implants come apart? (I can’t move the implant in my head of course but the external part comes off and I can detach everything).
- Can I wear my implant to the gym? (Yes but I learned to use the aquacase after having too much sweat cause the battery to shorten out and it not to work right.)
- How will the implant affect tinnitus if at all? (No different. If anything I think I hear it less now. I could feel the electrodes moving in my head before I was turned on though. That was pretty neat.)
- What are the parts of the cochlear implant? (I’m too lazy to answer this now. Basically internal, external with the battery and mic)
- Will I be put under anesthesia for the surgery? (Yes I was. I was knocked out in 2 minutes and didn’t feel a thing. I woke up unaware of where I was and what was happening and I was “weird” to put it lightly.)
- When would be the soonest date I could have the surgery done? (I had surgery performed exactly one month after meeting my surgeon, but it depends on the hospital, schedules, and how quickly you get testings/approvals)
- Is there currently a wait-list for this surgery? (No, there wasn’t. Again this depends on your hospital).
- How much more clarity and volume should I expect to get from the implant? (I’m not sure what he said but I ended up with about 93%!)
- Is there a chance that I’ll experience issues/soreness with my jaw and/or throat after surgery? (Yes from the breathing tube. I had a very sore throat and couldn’t eat solid food for about a week or 10 days).
- Will my face go numb after surgery? (This can happen if the surgeon hits a nerve. My surgeon was very well aware of the nerve and said he knew how to avoid it. He was true to his word!)
- Will I lose my taste buds after surgery? (See #24).
- I work on a computer all day. Can this cause issues such as static with my implant? (No.)
- Will the implant last for life? (Internally, yes. Externally it may be upgraded every few years as advanced in technology are made).
- How will my implant work with my hearing aid for the ear that does not receive an implant? (You can sync them together or something if you have Phonak hearing aids. Which I don’t. So it really didn’t make a difference).
- Will I be able to adjust the volume on my Cochlear Implant on my own or will it be computerized? (I can adjust it to an extent. If I ever need significant changes I can have my audiologist reprogram it on her computer).
- Will I feel electric jolts after being activated? (I did before they turned it on a bit).
- Can you give me more information on EAS implants? Would you recommend that for my type of hearing loss? (I honestly don’t remember what any of this means).
- Will the implant whistle like how my hearing aids do? (No they don’t and I’m quite thankful for that!)
This second time around I have far less questions, mainly because I’ve already been through it once and have most of my questions answered. But I still have a few including:
- Can I sync my two implants together (Not really. They are working to combine them but haven’t really done it successfully so far. However, I may be able to match the setting or something like that so they work together).
- Can I wear my first implant when recovering from surgery for my second one? (Yes).
- What kind of testing will I need to go through? (Since it’s only been a year since my first surgery, I don’t have to go through most of them again. I just need another evaluation for insurance purposes).
Those three questions are really all I have so far, but I’m sure I’ll think of more to come. I’m very excited for round 2 of this incredible, blessed journey!
If you’ve known me any time in the last 3 years, you’ve probably hear this same old argument from me countless times. I said I wanted to go back to school to get my Master’s in Public Relations. Then I had my heart set on earning a Master’s in English from Rutgers. Some days I wanted to get a third Bachelor’s degree in Psychology. I played around with earning a degree in Marketing, too.
Basically I’ve been completely indecisive. For awhile I actually said I didn’t want to earn my Master’s in Writing. I guess after studying Writing Arts for 2 and a half years, I had a enough of it and didn’t really feel like writing anymore. Sure, I had plenty of ideas. I did, after all write a young adult novel on suicide and depression called Escape, which I still have every intention of publishing (I’ll revise and edit it and work on trying to get it published one of these days…I swear”. And there’s still that insane children’s novel about the kids who eat forbidden cheese on a field trip to the moon and end up turning into cheese and having to live an alternative life on the moon… but it still just wasn’t enough for me to want to go through with grad school for it.
But getting my cochlear implant changed all of that for me. I had stories to tell, but it’s almost like before, the stories were never really my own. I still have a lot of faith in Escape, but it is a very difficult novel to write. I am writing a novel about a childhood friend that killed himself. In that novel, I am looking for answers. I will never have the answers. I can only speculate and wonder what drove one of the most popular guys in school to end his life so tragically. So Escape is based on reality. But it can never be labeled as non-fiction, because no one will ever really know the truth. And as his classmate, I am an outsider. I will never know what really went on during that time. I only know the rumors and speculations.
Escape is a very risky book to write. I have to worry about upsetting the family members of the individual who inspired my book. I have written about him in the past, but very vaguely. I have attempted to interview the family, and ended up cancelling on them because I got the sense that they were so uncomfortable with the interview, that I’d be doing more harm than good with going through with it. Also, while I believe very strongly that the world needs a book like Escape — a novel that speaks the truth about teenagers and how depression is a prevalent issue in today’s teens and how suicide is a huge problem no one wants to talk about — that is just it. Nobody wants to talk or hear about teenagers ending their life. Unfortunately, I believe that this includes book publishers.
Going to grad school with the intent of using “Escape” as a thesis and publishing it afterwards— a very big risk that will cost a lot of money.
As for my cheese story — I love talking about it. It’s very creative and imaginative and wild — but I don’t have any sense of direction. I have a couple variations of a short story — but I don’t know where this is going for a novel and I’m not sure when if ever I will know. I am still in the thinking and brainstorming process with it. Graduate school will move fast. It will also be very expensive. I don’t think I should go into graduate school with a vague idea and no sense of direction regarding my work. It would be better to hold off on that for graduate school.
But now, I do have a story. I have a story that is filled with my own unique voice. I know exactly which directions to take with it because it is my reality. It is my life. I am living my story now. I had to wait to go to grad school because I had to wait for my story to come to me. This — my cochlear —this is it.
My blog has served as a bit of a first draft. I am never short on ideas for what to right. Most of my posts are at least 1,000 words long. I have 39 posts and counting. That right there is an estimated 39,000 words or more. A standard novel is estimated to be approximately 50,000 words or more — with that being said, I’m already well over half way there. There’s no denying I have the material for a story. It’s just a matter of writing it — which through this blog, I already begun doing.
And I know there is definitely an audience for my book. My friends, family, co-workers, and people from my church have all been following my blog. They love it. They say they are fascinated and amazed by the things I write about. But even beyond that, there’s an audience.
There are not many books out there about cochlear implants or hearing loss in general. The few that do exist are either horribly outdated or too technical to understand, or both. There isn’t a lot in the way of inspirational stories that people can connect with. If you are considering getting a cochlear implant, good luck finding a book in your local bookstore written by someone who went through with it and can tell you what it’s REALLY like. You might find one if you’re lucky. Never more than 3.
My book can also fall into many categories — inspirational, Christian,motivational, etc. It’s very uplifting and of course I attribute much of my success with my cochlear to my faith and belief in god. After all, my book is called “God Granted Me Hearing”. You don’t get much more Christian than that.
I want to go to grad school because I believe that that will be the thing that helps me to really bring my book to life. I plan to use my book for most of my assignments and my thesis project. I will spend a great deal of time in grad school working on this book. I know my professors can help point me in the right direction and help me to polish it and get it published, too.
I am extremely familiar with the professors I’ll have as a graduate student in Rowan’s Master in Writing program. I had a majority (if not all) of them as an undergraduate Writing Arts student. I loved my professors and learned very much from them and will be excited to continue learning more from them at the graduate level, especially now that I have a clear grasp of who I am as a writer and what I want to do.
There is just one thing that might be holding me back now — graduate school is very very expensive. It is estimated to cost me a good $24,000. I do not have $24,000.
I filed for FAFSA this weekend. Unfortunately from what I’m told, FAFSA does not give you grants as a form of financial aid as a graduate student like it does if you’re an undergrad. It will merely tell you what kind of loans you are eligible for.
Like most of my peers, I am already deep in debt from undergrad. I currently owe approximately $20,000 to be paid off during a 10-year time period. My debt is nothing compared to most people’s, but it is still not easy to pay off. I have already had to defer payments once and have frequently been late on payments because with my current income, $200+ per month is not always doable.
By going to graduate school, my student loan debt will more than double. It could take me more than 20 years to pay it all off. It makes sense for many of my classmates who are taking on careers such as that of a doctor or lawyer, but when you’re a writer the future is very very very unclear.
My book could become a bestseller.
My book could end up never being published.
You want to think positively, but when there’s $44,000 worth of debt on the table, it becomes difficult. You need to think long and hard about your ROI, and it’s completely up in the air. And that is hard.
I’m 25 years old. Yes, I am young, but at the same time, I am getting older.
I am in rush at all to get married or have children now. But I do want these things. I want these things very badly. Ideally, I’d love to get married in the next 4 or 5 years and have kids in the next 6 years or so. But if I put myself into $44,000 worth of debt — i don’t know that this will be possible.
If it is possible — it’s not fair. My future husband would be marrying into debt. My future children may not be able to have all that they deserve because of debt. That is not fair at all.
Graduate school always sounds like an amazing idea. How could going to school and furthering your education and bettering yourself be a bad thing? But when it comes to debt, it is. It is like you get punished for wanting to be well-educated. It’s not at all right. In my opinion, college and graduate school really should be free. Unfortunately in our country that must be an unpopular opinion, because I don’t see this happening any time soon.
I have an amazing amount of support coming from my boyfriend, my family, friends, everyone around me. I know they would support me wholeheartedly. My boyfriend even said he’d like to help me when he can. While I definitely appreciate this offer, it’s not one I could ever see myself accepting. It’s just way too much.
There is one thing that could help me get to graduate school without it being a major debt sentence — a graduate assistanceship.
Graduate assistanceships are known to pay about half (sometimes even more) of the cost of grad school. They also pay a stipend which can be used however you choose — which in my case would be towards graduate school. This would definitely make graduate school affordable for me.
I will go through with graduate school if I can get an assistanceship. This is the only way I will go through with it. I refuse to allow myself to take on an extra $24,000 of student loan debt.
I contacted my former professor who also serves as the director of the Master in Writing program at Rowan last night asking for some guidance in regards to what to include with my application and asking if he could help point me in the right direction for landing an assistanceship. I will also be sure to keep an eye out for any postings. I cannot apply for them yet because I need to be accepted into the program first. I have not yet applied.
For now I need to work on the application. My application is due in August. I need two letters of recommendation (still toying with who to ask for those), an 8-10 page writing sample (considering submitting my blog — they say that can be acceptable. I asked Professor Block but I’m still waiting for a response), my resume, and an application along with the $65 fee.
More than anything right now though, I need prayers.
I am putting everything in God’s hands now. If it is my will to go to graduate school, I know the Lord will bless me and make it possible. After all, it was the lord’s will that I gain the gift of hearing, and I can hear now, right? Everything in my life is a part of God’s plan, and maybe, lord-willing this is the next step to take in fulfilling his plans for me. Only time will tell what God’s plan for me is.
Image Credits: Pulse Magazine
I have a confession to make. If you’re deaf or hard of hearing like myself, than this should come as no surprise. In fact, if you’re deaf or hard of hearing like myself, you yourself are or probably have been in the same boat at one point or another. Here it is:
For years I have dealt with anxiety issues in social settings and in non-social settings. I also have struggled to sleep at night due to my anxiety and have had to take sleeping medication if I wanted to have any chance of falling asleep at night.
I am not along. Anxiety is very common in the deaf and hard of hearing world. There has been countless studies that link anxiety with hearing loss. The reason is simple: many deaf individuals are part of a hearing world, whether voluntarily or involuntarily. Even those who say they operate in a predominately deaf world will be forced to interact with the hearing world on almost a daily basis. It’s definitely not easy and a major cause of anxiety.
If you want to be technical, I am deaf but not Deaf. You may not be able to see a difference in these two words, but those with hearing loss knows what it means. To be deaf means you have a significant hearing loss, or no hearing at all, but you interact in a hearing world. To be Deaf with the capital D means that you have no hearing and you operate in a Deaf world. So what’s the difference?
Those who operate in the Deaf world sign. Their world is almost entirely silent. They go to special deaf schools. Their friends are more than likely all deaf, or at least always sign to them. They try to avoid being a part of the hearing world as much as possible. In contrast, those in the hearing world do not go to a special school. They strive to interact with the hearing world as much as possible. I fall into this later category.
Prior to getting my cochlear implant, interacting in the hearing world was very difficult for me. Not being able to hear can definitely cause a bit of anxiety. Here are a few examples.
I went to college. Not just any college, but Rowan University. A public university. I was a really great student and my professors loved me. I had two majors (English and Writing Arts) and a separate concentration (Creative Writing). These were all pretty unique majors that called for much discussion in class. My professors loved me and knew I was a good student, so they always liked to hear what I had to say. However, sometimes I had no idea what was going on in class. I tried my best to lipread. I have been deemed an “expert” lipreader. However, even experts aren’t always necessarily perfect. Sometimes people had a unique tone to their voice and it was out of my hearing range. The worst was when the chairs were arranged in single rows. I always sat in the front of the room to hear my professor, but I could never hear my classmates since they were behind me and I couldn’t see their lips to lipread. Sometimes I really wanted to talk about the book I just had to read in class. Sometimes I had a lot to say. But a lot of the times I was too afraid to say anything since I wasn’t able to follow every word or most of it and I wasn’t entirely sure what was going on. I would pray that the professor wouldn’t call on me because I didn’t want to look like I haven’t read or wasn’t paying attention. That’s how I always appeared, but the truth was I was paying attention! I was paying such close attention that I was exhausted from trying to figure out what was being said! But most professors don’t understand that.
There are two instances that really stand out in my mind as awkward post-cochlear implant college experiences. Once was during one of my first creative writing classes. My professor really liked me and wanted my feedback on many occasions. She was my favorite professor actually. I did pretty well with following along most of the time, but for some reason I really struggled on this particular day. I think the desks were rearranged making it harder for me to see my classmates and lipread or something. Needless to say, she asked me a question and I had no answer because I had no idea what was going on. I kindly explained that I couldn’t hear anything. My professor understood, but got pretty embarrassed. She apologized profusely to me, which made me feel a bit embarrassed and awkward myself. By trying to make things better, she kind of made it worst.
The other instance was with my Writing Children’s Stories class. Originally I was signed up to take the course with a British professor. He was an extremely nice guy, but I couldn’t understand a word he said. He had a strong accent and his voice was in a tone that was out of my range. I was never going to do well in his class simply because I couldn’t understand a word he said. I needed the course to complete my creative writing concentration, but the other professor who taught the class didn’t have any openings. I had to fill out a special form to get into her class. Unfortunately, this form had to come from the Academic Success Center. I’ve talked to the people over their multiple times and they were always super friendly and more than willing to help in anyway they could. However, they couldn’t help without having me first register as having a disability, something I never wanted to do. But I needed help, so I did what I had to do. Then I got into the class. I was able to hear my professor just fine, but 95% of the time during class, I never heard a word that my classmates said. Needless to say, the class was a bit less enjoyable than I anticipated.
Another time when my hearing loss was a great cause for anxiety was whenever I had to order food out. I always tried to avoid it as much as possible. When I was in college I would usually buy food from the little convenience store on campus where I could just grab something and have them ring it up for me with little to no conversation. I did try to order food from the various on-campus food places a few times, but it was always an incredibly awkward experience since I could never hear the person taking my order or making my food or telling me my order was ready. If I went out to a restaurant, I would make my family/friends/significant other order for me and translate what the waiter/waitress was saying for me. Then I would apologize or have that person apologize profusely to the waiter/waitress and explain that they were answering for me since I couldn’t hear. Pretty awkward. I would avoid going to bars like the plague. I tried it once with my ex and never wanted to do it again. It was so loud and noisy. I couldn’t have a conversation or hear anything and the noise didn’t sound like televisions or music the way it did to most people. I couldn’t understand what the noise was. To me it was just that…loud noise.
Now that I have a cochlear implant though, none of these problems seem to matter much at all. Unfortunately, I am not in college anymore so my college troubles are definitely a thing of the past (though I’ve definitely thought about going back to school on multiple occasions. Problem is, I have no idea what I’d want to go for…). However, I do work for a digital marketing agency. When I first started working here some of my coworkers thought I was pretty quiet. Just like I couldn’t hear in school, for the longest time I couldn’t hear well at work. This also caused me great anxiety. When we had department meetings I could never hear my coworkers. My former boss from my inbound marketing/social media marketing days has a tone to his voice that was out of my range so I hardly ever understood a word he said. The same was true for my co-workers who were from New Hampshire. And the phone? Forget that. If I ever needed to make a phone call I’d have to get another co-worker or my boss to do it for me. I couldn’t hear on the phone at all.
Now I’m actually a Social Media Project Manager and Assistant Digital Marketing Manager. Without my cochlear, I don’t think this could have been made possible. I am able to speak during department meetings and hear my coworkers. This means my communication with them has improved tenfold. I am able to help other coworkers with projects and discuss our clients with them face-to-face, whereas in the past I relied solely on IM since I could never hear them well enough in person. I talk on the phone with clients, especially those that I manage, on an almost daily basis. While I was a little awkward on the phone initially, I have improved greatly and am now able to speak very confidentially because my anxiety is just about completely gone. I can hear. There’s no need to be so anxious anymore.
I can’t remember the last time I seriously struggled to order food out. I have been out to eat countless times since getting my cochlear with my boyfriend and my family. I’m able to order food on my own without being dependent on others. If things get too loud I can just switch my settings around to block out the background noise. Eating out suddenly became much more enjoyable and less anxiety-ridden!
And my sleeping pills? I can’t remember the last time I had to take them either. There seems to be a whole lot less things keeping me up at night. I haven’t needed them. I am much less drowsy during the day now. Or to say it more simply, I’m living my life free of anxiety and I couldn’t be happier.
For those of you who don’t already know, I am a member of the vast minority of 20-somethings in New Jersey. What do I mean by that? Unlike most 20-something New Jerseyians, I lack possession of a valid driver’s license. Quite frankly, I never had possession of one to begin with.
Not having driver’s license may not be a big deal in some areas like NYC or Philly, but in South Jersey, it’s crucial. I had intended to get my license many times over the years, it just never quite worked out. I have been renewing my driving permit for about 7 years now. Yet I still have not even come very close to having my actual license.
Driving is hard for me. Harder than it would be for most people. Or I guess I should say it “WAS” hard, not so much anymore. It required a lot of focus. I know that driving always requires you to be focused,but this is especially true when you can’t hear. For the past 24 years of my life lip-reading has been to me what my hearing aid audiologist, Sherry, refers to as my “crutch”. My hearing was so bad (legally I am deaf),that unless I could see a person and read their lips, I would have no idea what they were saying. This worked fine in most situations. However, trying to lipread while driving is a bit of a disaster.
When you’re learning how to drive you have to rely a lot of others for directions and guidance. In my case those people were my parents. I had to depend on them to have them tell me where to go or how to make a hard turn or parallel park or really do anything at all involving driving. My parents were naturally used to my hearing and knew to talk loudly and clearly for me. However, clarity is something I did not have. I could often times here them, but not always understand them. Sometimes I couldn’t tell if they said “right” or “left” because they sounded the same. You don’t always have time to have people constantly repeat things to you when you are driving. Sometimes, you have to take a guess as to what the words are. If you think you hear “right” when it really should be “left”, sometimes that can cause all kinds of problems which at times can be outright dangerous. This happened more than a few times for me. I would have to guess like that a lot. I had to keep my eyes on the road. I couldn’t use my lipreading crutch because that would cause me to take my eyes off the road to look at a person. It definitely made driving quite a challenge.
I did actually take my driving test once. It did not go well at all. My instructor seemed annoyed by me right from the start. I couldn’t hear her very well when she told me to do things like put my window down or turn wipers on or even unlock the door. My parents could help repeat these things at that part of the test which helped me but seemed to annoy the instructor anymore. I didn’t get very far with my test. I couldn’t parallel park properly and not being able to hear the instructor only made it worst. I think she just kind of got out of the car at the end and that’s how I knew I was out of chances and have failed my test.
In February of this year I renewed my permit for the 50 million time. I just started practicing driving again for the first time in over a year and for the first time since receiving my cochlear implant. I’m amazed by how much easier driving is now that I have my implant. I don’t have to worry about my hearing. I can hear so well and so clearly. Not being able to read lips while driving is no problem at all because I can hear so well without relying on lipreading. I’ve been doing better than ever with my speed and turns. I even drove a little bit on some small roads with minimal traffic (and at times people and dogs) with no problem. My parking still needs some work…but I am confident I will get there in time.
Getting my license is more important to me now than ever before. I want to be able to drive to work on my own and drive to my boyfriend’s house when he is not home and to be able to take myself places. I will be 25 in less than 2 months and I think having my license, especially at my age, is crucial. My cochlear is giving me a lot more confidence with my driving and I think it’s only a matter of time now when I’ll be ready to re-take my driving test and this time actually pass it and finally earn my license.It’s really amazing to see how big of a difference having my cochlear has made and how much easier driving is now that I have it. It’s truly yet another amazing blessing from God!