I had the opprtunity to talk to Stacey about what prompted her choice of career and what obstacles she faced studying to become a deaf audiologist.
Angie: You’ve had a profound hearing loss in both ears since birth. What is your earliest memory of visiting an audiologist?
Stacey: The earliest memory I have of going to the audiologist is getting my earmold impressions made. I’m not sure how old I was.
Angie: How old were you when you got your first hearing aid/s and your cochlear implant? What do you remember about that first fitting/switch on?
Stacey: I was 8 months old when I got my first hearing aid. I was 18 years old when I got my cochlear implant. I remember that I was hearing different sounds I had not ever heard before, or the different high frequency sounds. The best example I can give is of the Reverend Mother singing ‘Climb Every Mountain’ in The Sound of Music. Before I got my implant, whenever she hit the high notes, her voice would fizzle out, and I thought that was normal. I was shocked after my implant that there were higher parts of the song that did not fizzle out!
Angie: When did you first think you might like to become an audiologist?
Stacey: I was 15 years old when I decided I wanted to go into audiology. At a conference I attended, one of the speakers said that children with profound hearing loss would never learn to speak or hear, and as someone who could do both with the help of powerful hearing aids, I knew that wasn’t true. At that point, I decided I wanted to help families of children with hearing loss.
“…one of the speakers said that children with profound hearing loss would never learn to speak or hear, and as someone who could do both with the help of powerful hearing aids, I knew that wasn’t true. At that point, I decided I wanted to help families of children with hearing loss.”
Angie: What challenges did you face as a student due to your deafness and what support did you receive?
Stacey: The most difficult challenges I faced were doing things like speech recognition testing. I was fortunate to go to a graduate program that was extremely supportive and we tried different strategies to make sure that I wouldn’t miss anything. I used an FM system in the clinic, and I would come up with different strategies like having people write down responses if I was going to have more difficulty understanding them.
Angie: What kind of reaction did you get from your fellow audiology students? Were you the only Deaf student on your course or were there others?
Stacey: I was the only student with hearing loss in my year in my program. They were quite supportive and fantastic. There were other students with hearing loss who graduated before I went to that program and there continue to be students with hearing loss attending that program.
Angie: Do you feel that your deafness gives you a bond with your patients?
Stacey: Yes. I’ve noticed that my patients seem pretty comfortable with being able to tell me things about their hearing loss or they feel like they can relate to me more.
Angie: What would you say is the most rewarding aspect of your job?
Stacey: I would say the best is when I’m able to help someone in a way they hadn’t thought possible. I love it when people leave the appointment happy and feeling better about what they have or the different options and opportunities that are available to them.
Angie: What would you say to someone who has been putting off going to see an audiologist for a routine hearing test?
Stacey: It’s always good to just see how you are hearing. We can monitor that over time. I’m here to help when you are ready to move forward with hearing testing, hearing aids, or other devices that will help you.
Angie: What advice would you give other young deaf people in terms of following their chosen career path?
Stacey: Make sure that you have someone you can find to support you. Make sure that you find an audiology program that is willing to work with you to figure out what works best for you in the clinic and classroom, and don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t be an audiologist because you have a hearing loss.
(dis)ABLED BEAUTY: The Evolution of Beauty, Disability and Ability