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Studying with Hearing Loss: My tips and experiences as a university student

I’m like most young people.

I enjoy meeting new people, travelling and seeing the world, working out, spending time with my friends, learning new things, developing and dreaming of the future. The fact that I have congenital hearing loss is no hindrance to me. I think there’s nothing wrong with asking for help, but it’s also up to everyone to make the most of the opportunities available. To make the most of their lives.

The attitude one has toward their hearing loss is very important. It’s entirely normal for a 23-year-old to study at university. So why shouldn’t I do that? I have impaired hearing, but there’s nothing wrong with the rest of me.

My advice to everyone who wants to study at the university is to get their head down and work at upper secondary school and then apply to whatever university they like – whether you have hearing loss or not. 

I’m currently studying at Karlstad University in Sweden. If everything goes according to plan, I’ll be completing my Masters’ in marketing in about five years’ time. I was born in Lund and that’s a university city as well, but I applied to Karlstad so that I could gain new perspectives, and because I wanted to meet new people. And I’ve definitely done that.

I reckon that as far as society’s concerned, everyone with hearing loss should be able to continue their studies, just like everyone else – and that this should be the norm. And hence all universities and colleges should be kitted out with the right technology and expertise right from the outset.

Since I started studying at Karlstad University, one lecture hall has been renovated to include permanent induction loops. You have to talk to the college or university and be open about your hearing loss. Do it early, though! It’s not something that can be implemented overnight.

Karlstad University also has a contract with Phonak, so it’s equipped with modern technology that eliminates disruptive background noise and gives clear sound even from far away.  Lecturers aren’t generally used to using microphones, even though they lecture to large groups of students.

I have also access to what’s known as note-taking support. This involves a classmate writing down everything that’s said at the lecture so that I don’t miss any information. It makes life a lot easier for me. I can compare these notes with my own notes and see whether I’ve missed anything out. And the university pays him a small salary for his work!

The new Discrimination Act, which came into force in late 2014/early 2015 in Sweden, means that it’s now easier to get access to aids and as a result people with hearing loss have the same opportunities as people with normal hearing in various contexts. But even so, attitudes are still a major sticking point in a variety of situations in society.

I want to work with marketing in the future, but I don’t know exactly how I’m going to do that. Maybe I could give lectures and try to influence things in some capacity. You can certainly live your life, no matter how good or bad your hearing is. Be open, meet new people, try things out. If music in clubs is too loud for you, have a party at home instead. See the opportunities.

My three tips for anyone with hearing loss planning to study at university or college:

  1. Contact the university or college and make it clear that you have impaired hearing.
  2. Visit the university or college, make sure they have the right technology there. Try the technology out and check that everything works.
  3. Join in with Freshers Week! Grab the opportunity to make new friends straight away. Say hello, casually tell people that you have impaired hearing. Give people the opportunity to understand.

victoria_arndt_smallViktoria Arndt is 23 years old and lives in Karlstad, Sweden. She is a student at Karlstad University, and enjoys running, working out and spending time with friends. She has congenital hearing loss and wears hearing aids in both ears, as well as uses a wireless system from Phonak including push-to-talk microphones, permanent induction loops and portable loops for smaller lectures. 

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The HearingLikeMe editorial team includes Jill Blocker von Bueren and Lisa Goldstein.