Tag Archives: post-activation


Image Credits: QuotesGram.com

Hey guys! Merry Christmas Eve Eve! Today is a really special day for me because it’s the 1 year anniversary of being activated on my right ear. Hurrah!

I apologize for the lack of updates. I know I promised you guys back in like August that I’d post on what it’s like to teach with cochlear implants…and now it’s the end of December…sorry! Between working full time at Penn Medicine, teaching 3 times a week at Rowan, and taking two graduate courses towards my MA in Writing, I haven’t had much time for blogging. But the good news is that winter break is finally here giving me a little bit of free time to give you all an update!

Before I begin I just want to apologize ahead of time for any major typos in this post. My laptop is currently on life support and the R, Y, 7, and perhaps some other keys I’ve yet to discover are currently broken. I’m actually using an external keyboard to type most of this. I know I should be less stubborn and give in and buy a new laptop (my current one is about 7 years old, after all) but I just love this one so much I’m not quite ready to part with it (and to be honest I’m waiting to be able to use my leftover loan money for the Spring semester so I can purchase one from the bookstore with boro bucks…).

Well anyway where was I? Oh that’s right…teaching. What it’s like to teach with cochlear implants. As I mentioned in the past, this past fall semester was my first time EVER teaching. I taught a class of 18 (well, it was originally 18, turned into 17 when one of my students withdrew from the class) three times a week…Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. All of my students were freshman taking Intensive College Composition at Rowan University. This was a first-year writing class for Freshman with lower test scores on their SATS that needed an additional day of class each week for extra support.

I am currently in the process of earning my MA in Writing and I have no prior teaching experience. I am able to teach as part of my MA in Writing program through acceptance into the Teaching Experience Program (TEP) at Rowan University. When I first started teaching I was honestly terrified. I think I practiced my first-day lesson about 20,000 times before teaching my first class on Friday, September 2nd.

I’ll be honest, I was a little nervous about how my students would react to my cochlear implants at first. Being silver and blue, they definitely stand out and are kind of hard to miss…something I’m proud of. I never wanted to hide my cochlear implants from the world and never tried to hide them on anything. However, I assumed most of my students had never seen cochlear implants, wouldn’t know what they were, and never been around a deaf individual. I felt kind of vulnerable on my first day of class. I wasn’t sure if my students would take me seriously if they knew I was deaf, but at the same time my deafness was something I was proud of and wanted to make known to my class.


Here is a screenshot from my “First Day of Class” PowerPoint. I probably spent a little too much time talking about myself, but I was so nervous and they were so quiet!

While I did have a mini-lesson on rhetorical analysis for my first class, a majority of the first day was spent introducing myself to my class and going over the syllabus. I used this time to explain to my students about my deafness. It honestly felt kind of awkward. My students were SO QUIET on the first day. It felt a lot like “Bueller…Bueller…Bueller”. They just kind of starred blankly at me. I couldn’t get a feel for their reaction at all. Did they like me? Hate me? Find me and my deafness strange? I couldn’t tell at all. I felt strange talking about it though. I almost felt like I had to apologize for it like “Hey guys, sorry but you ended up with a graduate student who doesn’t really know what she’s doing right now and just so happens is also deaf.” I remember actually telling my students, “FYI…I CAN hear now so don’t think you can whisper and get away with because I will know!”I immediately regretted saying that…

My students probably forgot that I said that last statement immediately after I said it, but for some reason it really stuck with me. I felt like after I said it I HAD to hear my students and that asking them to repeat themselves would be like I was lying on contradicting myself and that it would cause my students to lose trust in me. Unfortunately, my students tend to mumble and speak softly on occasion, and this was especially true on the first day when all of my students were still really shy and fearful and not at all familiar with the college experience (they were freshman, after all). I found myself using coping strategies I used back when I was a camp counselor and couldn’t hear what kids were saying to me…I just smiled and said “Yeah” or something of that sort and moved on. Fortunately, this only happened once or twice on the first day.

As the semester went on my students and I quickly came to know each other and built up a strong sense of trust in each other. I would often tell my students they were like my children and I always meant that. I can’t begin to tell you what these kids meant to me. I wanted nothing more to see them succeed and nothing in the world was more heartbreaking to me than seeing a student who was not living up to their potential. By the third day of class I knew everyone’s names. By the 2nd full week I could give a little bit of biography or backstory on each of my students. I knew I was going to like teaching, but never expected to love it as much as I really did. I realized teaching was one of my biggest passions in life.

Professor Erskine's GRIT story.png

As the semester progressed, I became so comfortable with my students and my deafness in the classroom that I even willingly shared this embarrassing photo with all of my students…

I became more comfortable with my deafness in the classroom as well as time went on. My students never questioned my cochlear implants or my deafness. They seemed intrigued by it, but they were very respectful of me and they didn’t seem to mind having a deaf professor at all. They were very accepting. I tried to use my deafness in my lesson plans wherever appropriate. For example, when introducing my students to the concept of Grit for their second project in which they had to join the conversation of Grit and connect it with their own personal lives, I shared my story of overcoming challenges as a deaf student prior to getting a cochlear implant. I explained how statistically most deaf children can’t read or write and how my initial elementary school tried to label me as being special needs even though I was very intelligent simply because I was deaf. I even shared with my students about how I challenged my senior seminar professor and filed a report against him for discrimination my last semester of undergrad. I used these experiences to show how I had grit – the passion and perseverance to overcome great challenges to succeed. This was one of my favorite lesson plans to teach. I don’t think I’ve ever seen my students more focused or attentive than they were that day. While my students didn’t question anything I told them about my personal story that day, it was clear that I had their full and undivided attention. They were hooked.

I want to use my deafness to inspire my students in my classroom. I want them to see that they can do anything they set their minds to, no matter how difficult it may seem. Whenever someone tells them they can’t do something, I want them to work twice as hard to prove that individual wrong.

I also want to teach my students to be loving and accepting of others and their differences. I want them to see my deafness not as a DIS-ability meaning “not abled”, but rather as meaning “differently abled”. I want them to realize that the deaf can do anything the hearing can do except hear. They can still succeed and have the same opportunities for success in life.

Lastly, as a professor I want to make sure I am giving my students every opportunity I can to see them succeed. I know what challenges I faced as a student not being able to hear in class (I didn’t get my cochlear implants until after I already graduated from undergrad). One way that I do this is by making sure I always air closed captioning on any video I play in class (I use videos when I teach a lot in class). I know it sounds like such a small gesture, but it can make a huge difference when it comes to learning. Remember, just because a student doesn’t come to you and tell you they have a hearing impairment doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Also, reading the captioning in addition to listening to the audio of videos can further help students to retain the information presented in the video and further enhance learning.

My first semester teaching Intensive College Composition I has definitely been a challenge, but it has been such a blessing. I had an amazing class of students who always kept me on my toes and I learned so much from each and every one of my students and I hope that they learned equally as much from me. I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to teach them, something that prior to receiving my cochlear implants I never thought would’ve been a possibility. I am so excited to teach again in the spring and to see what my next class has in store for me!


I recently blogged about my first impression of the AquaCase from Advanced Bionics. However, at the time I haven’t actually used it for swimming or water-related activities yet. That changed today.

Today was the perfect day to go swimming. Here in NJ we are in our first heat wave of the season. Today it was about 90 degrees, and from it being so hot all week long the water had plenty of time to warm up a bit. So my mom and I got our bathing suits on, slathered on the sunblock, packed our bags, and headed to the pool.


I’m pretty sure my mom was more excited about my ability to use the AquaCase and hear at the pool than I was…she’s the one that took this picture.

I didn’t wear my hearing aid to the pool like I normally would. I knew I’d have to take that off when I went in the pool anyway, and with the cochlear and the AquaCase, it didn’t seem necessary to go through all of that trouble. So I left that at home and just went with my cochlear in the AquaCase.

When I first got to the pool I just laid down in one of the chairs and read for a bit. I could hear all of the kids and other people’s conversations which was very exciting as it’s not something I can normally do. The real test of course would be once I went in the water.

After reading for 20 minutes or so, I headed to the water. I started off like I always do by just putting my feet into the water to get a feel for the temperature and to get my body used to it. For the first time ever my mom jumped in well before me. I’ll admit I was nervous. I was nervous of the cochlear falling off and the case not working right and the cochlear falling off, getting wet, and breaking. Then my mom splashed me and made sure to hit my cochlear so I knew it was fine lol. I was still a bit nervous though so I walked around and went down there stairs in the pool rather than simply jumping in.


I was very excited about going swimming with my cochlear, but also quite nervous.

I think a lot of my nerves stemmed from all of the years where I had to be extremely careful with my hearing aids. My hearing aids definitely have never been made water proof. I have had quite a few problems with that over the years. I still have very vivid memories of destroying one of my hearing aids during a class field trip to Hershey Park in 8th grade. I tried to be so careful with my hearing aids on that trip and was doing well until we all decided to go on the log stream. We weren’t supposed to get wet on that ride — or so they said. We ended up getting completely drenched and my hearing aid definitely didn’t make it out so well. Another more recent time I was walking around town and it started to down pour. I got caught in the rain, and my hearing aid started to cut out on me. Luckily, I was able to save it that time by wiping it down, shaking water out, and using a blow dryer on it for a couple of seconds. But it just goes to show you how even a little bit of water can be completely destructive to hearing aids. I didn’t want to have the same experience with my cochlear. That’a for sure.

Once I finally overcame my nerves and really went in the pool I was able to enjoy myself. It was really neat being able to hear all of the kids, especially the little ones, as I definitely couldn’t have done this before. I always struggled to hear little kids because their voices are so high and out of my range. In the pool in the past without my hearing aids or cochlear I couldn’t hear much of anything, really.

Hearing the water was cool too. It sounded a lot louder and a bit deeper of a tone that I thought it did. I could usually vaguely hear splashing if someone jumped in or did a cannonball in the pool, but smaller splashes such as those caused by people splashing their hands in the pool I couldn’t usually hear. I could hear all of that well today.

The best part was definitely being able to hold a conversation with my mom in the pool. Yes, I did lipread a little. As I previously stated, lipreading comes naturally to me and is a habit that I don’t intend to break anytime soon.But I definitely wasn’t dependent on it. I couldn’t be. I always take my glasses off when I see so I couldn’t exactly see very well lol.

Yesterday my boyfriend and I celebrated 9 months together and had a really nice night together. I was talking to my mom all about that. My boyfriend and I are planning a 3-day trip for our 1 year anniversary so I was talking to her a bit about that too and the things we want to do and figuring out the expenses. I was kind of rambling on and on (I do that a lot when it comes to talking about my boyfriend — it’s what happens when you really love someone) so my mom cut me off and said “look at you being all talkative in the pool!” She was so excited for me. I don’t usually talk that much in the pool because naturally it’s kind of hard to talk and have a conversation when you can’t hear anything.

I definitely enjoyed the Aquacase more today and was very happy to have it. It still isn’t nearly as clear as my regular processor is, but it’s getting a little bit better. I think that I will always prefer to use my cochlear without the AquaCase, but I’m definitely still seeing some of the benefits of the AquaCase and I know the more I use it the more I will get used to it and like it. I do still feel that I need another magnet. That’s the only thing that got a little bit annoying. My headpiece came off a couple of times. The headpiece is thicker on the AquaCase than the non-water proof one for the regular processor so I think that’ why it needs more magnets than the other one does. Definitely not a big deal though. I’m also getting much better at switching the mikes and setting up the Aquacase which is great. I can easily switch back and forth when I need to.

Having the AquaCase is definitely going to come in handy this summer when I go to the pool with it. Now the next thing on my bucketlist is to go to the beach with my cochlear! I’d love to hear how the ocean sounds and try swimming in the ocean with it on!

Now for the update (that I totally almost forgot about and actually had to go back and edit this post to include…). I have begun the process of writing my book based on my cochlear implant experience. Like, actually writing it from the beginning as opposed to just blogging about it. I got a good 1100 words in so far today. The beginning seems a little shaky and I’m sure it will be the hardest part of writing my book, but it’s a start. A lot of what makes it hard is that I’m recalling what it was like when it was first discovered I have hearing loss and how I dealt with it as a toddler. I don’t remember anything about being 2 and very little about being like 3-5 years old, so that is making it hard. But a lot of this is backstory that will more than likely be edited out of my final draft anyway. The important thing is that I am writing. It’s a start and I’m very confident there will be a beautiful ending to it a few months down the road.

It starts here

Every story has to start somewhere…