When Michelle Hu Lapid was first diagnosed with hearing loss, her mother was told she would probably not go beyond a third grade reading level.
Fast forward 35 years, and Michelle has become a pediatric audiologist and chef, military wife and mother.
We’ve talked to her as part of our Community Spotlight series, to gain insights and inspiration from others in the hearing loss community.
When Michelle was an infant, she was diagnosed with mild hearing loss, but she was also diagnosed with Enlarged Vestibular Aqueduct Syndrome/Pendred Syndrome.
“My mom was told that I would probably not go beyond a third grade reading level,” Michelle says.
As a direct result of her diagnosed condition of EVAS, she was to suffer steady progressive hearing loss each time she had a fall hitting her head.
“This happened in first, third and fifth grade. By age 10, I had profound, bilateral sensorineural hearing loss.”
During her senior year in college, Michelle had another turning point. She was sitting with her mother in a lobby waiting for a hearing test. Having recently suffered a sudden drop in her hearing, her mother turned to her and said that perhaps she would make a good audiologist, having first-hand experience with hearing loss and hearing aids.
“I was still unsure of what direction I wanted to go after graduation and this suggestion floored me,” Michelle said. “Yes, I wanted to help others in a healthcare setting but I just didn’t have a pull to a specific field. That year my hearing came back with the help of intratympanic steroid injections but I was already filling out applications with the goal to attend the Northeast Ohio Audiology Consortium.”
During her third year studying, Hu Lapid learned of cochlear implants. After discussing with her parents, she’d discovered that they also considered the technology when she was young.
However, because they were unsure of the technology back then, they didn’t pursue her getting implanted. They told Michelle that seeing that she had not only adapted to her hearing loss, but, had in fact thrived academically, they’d decided that it wasn’t necessity.
As an adult, Michelle decided to make the decision herself. She was evaluated for a cochlear implant and implanted later that year, she says.
“For the first time in a very long time, I could hear my feet shuffle on the carpet. I heard the turn signal of my car, utensils tapping on dishes and leaves rustling with the wind. I could hear and understand conversation in a dark car, on the telephone and my confidence soared.”
Michelle said the cochlear implants changed the way she experienced life. No longer did she feel she had to avoid such social events as parties, theaters, and going to the movies. The confidence having cochlear implants gave Michelle the drive to move across the country. She left her home in Ohio and moved to San Diego, California, where she began working as a pediatric audiologist.
“Had I not received my first cochlear implant, I would not have the confidence to feel safe walking alone at night or talking on the phone, with anyone other than my parents,” she said.
“With my listening skills and the thresholds, I get to have with my cochlear implants the sky is the limit.”
Along with a pediatric audiology degree, Michelle also decided to scratch culinary school off of her bucket list. For eight months, she subjected herself to some of the most difficult listening environments: tiled floors, stainless steel equipment, and noisy appliances. High ceilings, exhaust fans, walls of refrigerators, and constant running water. On top of that, her chef/professor had a heavy French accent.
“But I endured,” Michelle says. “I had [my professor] wear my FM system. I constantly asked for repetition, asked my station buddy for clarification and I took copious notes. Then, I messed up, spilled things, ruined dishes, lost fingertips, burned myself…BUT I mastered sauces. I broke down poultry and seafood, created menus, plated and garnished. It was worth it.”
Today, Michelle is the happy mama of two girls, two fur babies, and is a military wife. And as if this lady isn’t busy enough, she also happens to be a volunteer for Cochlear, CA Hands and Faces and she has recently started an Instagram account, @mama.hu.hears where she shares personal stories and experiences.
These days, during the Covid-19 lockdown, Michelle is enjoying an extended maternity leave and video chatting with friends and family.
For someone who faces the challenges of hearing loss head-on, we look up to Michelle as an inspiration.
Do you know an inspiring person with hearing loss and want to share their story? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org