Ashlee Rose:Tell us about yourself
Olivia:I am a junior studying Communication Studies and Disorders at Northwestern University
and am thinking of pursuing graduate school. I was born in NYC and lived there for the
first five years of my life, and then my family moved to AZ, having lived there ever
since. I was mainstreamed my entire life with the help of my parents, my speech
therapist, my audiologists and my teachers.
Ashlee Rose:How old were you when you were diagnosed with a hearing loss? Do you know what
was the cause?
Olivia:My parents didn’t get a newborn screening, so we don’t know if I was born with hearing
or not. We think I had some hearing since I developed vocabulary. My mom started
noticing that I was losing my language, and that I wasn’t responding to certain sounds. So
she took me to numerous doctors to figure out what was going on, and finally, one doctor
officially diagnosed me with a moderate HL when I was one year old. My family doesn’t
know what the cause of my HL was.
Ashlee Rose:How old were you when you got your cochlear implants?
Olivia:I was fitted with HAs when I was diagnosed, and around age two, my hearing kept
declining to the point where I was profoundly deaf. So my parents made the tough
decision to get me implanted: I received my right side when I was three and my left side
at five years old.
Ashlee Rose:During elementary to college years, what have you done for educational support in
you're education settings? For example, did you have a notetaker, transcriber,
teacher of a deaf, FM/microphone, etc?
Olivia:I have always had an FM system available for me from elementary school through
college. In elementary school, my FM system was always handed to my teacher, so I
never had to deal with the responsibility of using my FM system. Once I reached middle
school, the onus was on me to give my FM system to my teachers. I was not the best at
this due to embarrassment of holding this reminder that I am different from my peers. I
also had to attend “beginning of school” information meetings with my teachers where
my speech therapist and I explain my HL and the accommodations I needed in class. I
had an informal notetaker, a friend who I would ask for copies of her notes.
In high school, I had the FM system, but again, I was not great at using it. My
classes were extremely small with a maximum of 15 students. I would always sit within
the first two rows of the classroom. However, there were definitely challenges of teachers
with accents or facial hair that impacted my ability to lip-read. In those situations, I
would definitely use my FM system. I asked for the use of closed captioning on all
videos. I also had to take a foreign language for four years, and when you study a foreign
language, listening exercises are key in learning the language. Therefore, whenever there
was a listening portion for tests, I would ask my french teacher to read the dialogues
aloud, so I could at least use lip-reading to help me follow what is being said.
In college, I have the support of the FM system as well as CART. CART has been
a huge help for me, but it can be challenging to use on such small desks in the lecture
halls. I still sit towards the front of the classroom to be close to the teacher and I ask for
closed captioning for videos. I have gotten better in advocating for myself if the teacher
forgets to turn on the captions or the FM system isn’t turned on. So I have made
improvements in using my accommodations as I get older.
Ashlee Rose:What were your extracurricular activities while growing up? (Tell us if you have
done a sport, music, dance or anything -what was it like with your hearing loss)
Olivia:I did what every kid did when they were younger; I tried all different kinds of sports like
soccer, tennis, swimming, and volleyball. But the main activity that I stuck with was
ballet from age three to eighteen. I remember when I started learning more complex
moves like turns or jumps, I was having a hard time keeping my large processors on my
ears. So I would put this strong, double-sided tape on the back of my processors and stick
them behind my ears. I also strategically tucked my coils underneath my hair that was
pulled tight into a bun. As I got older, I was able to navigate how to do these complex
moves without the risk of my processors flying off, so I stopped using the tape.
Ashlee Rose:Now, you are in college and deciding on whether you will major in Audiology or
Speech Pathology. Have you decided yet? Drumroll, perhaps?
Olivia:Drumroll.....I DON’T KNOW! I am starting to apply to graduate schools and am
figuring out my next steps. After working at Desert Voices and shadowing other
audiologists this past summer, I was sure that I want to pursue audiology. I am still
mulling over my options. But I know for sure that I want to work in both fields somehow,
either being an Early Intervention SLP or a pediatric audiologist with background in SLP.
Ashlee Rose:What has inspired you to this degree and future career on it? What do you hope
Olivia:I have first-hand experience in dealing with HL. I know what it’s like to be constantly
aware of my CIs: making sure I have charged batteries, being cautious of swimming
situations, putting my processors in the dryer. I also understand the social components
that come with HL: feeling embarrassed or worried about being treated differently as
soon as someone sees my CIs. Because I have all of this experience, I would love to be
able to share this with other people who are going through the same thing. In addition, I
have lived with CIs basically my entire life, but I don’t actually know the technology and
the ear mechanism, so this major helps me learn more of the science behind these systems
that I use every day.
I am hoping to take what I learn in school and be able to work with kids. I would
love to share my knowledge and experiences to help them realize they aren’t alone and
are not the only ones going through this. I want to gain strong skills in audiology and
speech/language development, and maybe open my own clinic or practice in the future. I
also hope to be a part of the development of CI technology. I could offer my knowledge
on the devices as well as my own experiences of things that should be modified in the
Ashlee Rose:Any advice or favorite quote you would like to share with other deaf and hard of
hearing individuals and the parents of deaf and hard of hearing?
Olivia:For parents, they constantly worry that they are not doing everything they can to help
their child. I’ve seen it in person and I have learned about it in class. My advice is to just
be there for your child: be their emotional support and advocate for them in every single
part of your life. But the most helpful thing you can do for your child when they get older
is to throw them into situations where they have to learn how to advocate for themselves.
Because we won’t always have our parents around, we need to be able to stick up for
ourselves and deal with tough situations that will inevitably come our way. My mom has
been a wonderful advocate for me, which has helped me to get to where I am now. But
she also encouraged and pushed me to advocate for myself at a young age, which is the
best thing she could have ever done for me. I am now able to talk on the phone and ask
the caller to repeat themselves. If I miss an announcement, I can comfortably ask the
person next to me what was said. Having this skill has helped me get to where I am
Hearing Impaired single mother and teacher aide at a hearing impaired oral preschool program. An author of "Turn The Lights On, I Cant Hear You".