When What You Learn in Class Happens to You An undergraduate student anticipates that insights from her own experiences with hearing loss will help her as a future clinician. Student's Say
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Student's Say  |   December 01, 2016
When What You Learn in Class Happens to You
Author Notes
  • Hannah Troup is an undergraduate senior in communication disorders at Geneva College in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania. hannahgrace.troup@gmail.com
    Hannah Troup is an undergraduate senior in communication disorders at Geneva College in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania. hannahgrace.troup@gmail.com×
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Hearing Disorders / Student's Say
Student's Say   |   December 01, 2016
When What You Learn in Class Happens to You
The ASHA Leader, December 2016, Vol. 21, 40-41. doi:10.1044/leader.SSAY.21122016.40
The ASHA Leader, December 2016, Vol. 21, 40-41. doi:10.1044/leader.SSAY.21122016.40
In October 2015, after three unsuccessful surgeries to remove the cholesteatoma growing in my left middle ear, I underwent a mastoidectomy. Although the procedure reduced the risk of further damage from the cholesteatoma, it left me without my malleus or incus bones, without an eardrum, and with a significant conductive hearing loss.
So here I am—an undergraduate communication disorders major with a communication disorder. Throughout my hearing loss journey, I have experienced different levels of impairment, the frustration of unsuccessful surgeries, and the social, physical and emotional repercussions that come with all of that.
But I have also experienced the care of professionals who have walked this path with me. I have experienced the compassion and understanding of friends and family who have been patient and kind, wanting to learn and help in whatever way they can.
Along the way, I’ve developed some tips for dealing with hearing loss—and really any condition that affects your ability to participate in classes and in life. And I believe that what I’ve learned will help me to be a better clinician, able to give advice based on personal experience.

I’ve developed some tips for dealing with hearing loss—and really any condition that affects your ability to participate in classes and in life. And I believe that what I’ve learned will help me to be a better clinician.

Accept the help you need
I know that I have a documented, objective hearing loss. Despite this definite knowledge, I sometimes forget that I have it. I blame other people when I don’t hear them. I think they mumble or use poor communication habits. The truth is, I have a significant conductive hearing loss in my left ear. Sometimes I just can’t hear what people say.
On the other hand, sometimes I expect special treatment because of my hearing loss when I, in fact, am perfectly capable of hearing and understanding what is being said. When someone speaks to me from my left, I often do not expect to hear them and automatically ask them to repeat themselves. I don’t feel like putting in the effort to be as attentive as possible.
As I look forward to being a speech-language pathologist, I know that we cannot help our clients if they do not accept our help. I have been reluctant to accept help myself, so I know that sometimes it’s not a matter of a client noncompliance; sometimes people genuinely feel that they don’t need help. It is our job to explain to clients what we plan to do, how it can help, and why it is important to their ability to meet their goals.
Educate others about your disability
Throughout my journey, I have had friends and family who have been incredibly helpful, adjusting to my need for movie subtitles, repeating and interpreting things, and implementing helpful communication strategies in their daily conversation.
For instance, my friends have learned that I can read their lips if they face me when they speak, that lighting is important, and that hearing in places with lots of background noise is harder. They have learned that it’s better for me if I sit in a particular seat at the dinner table, that the direction of sound matters, that I might look the wrong way if they call me from the left because I hear it first on the right. They have learned this so well that at times I have forgotten that I have trouble hearing at all.
So, based on this insight, I would advise clients to educate their friends and family about how to interact with them. Clients who help communication partners turn into experts at interacting—to such an extent that the partners don’t even have to think about it anymore—may find their road to be much easier.

The only failure related to accommodations is expecting perfection.

Don’t expect perfection
When I got my hearing aid, I (and some of the people around me) expected that all of my problems would end. Without thinking about it, people stopped using the communication strategies they had learned before I got my hearing aid and they began expecting me to pick up on their every whisper.
But even people with typical hearing don’t hear everything. It is not a failure for me to continue to use subtitles on TV or to sit in the front left of my classrooms so that I can have the optimal hearing experience.
The lesson from this that I’d impart to clients? The only failure related to accommodations is expecting perfection.
I cannot speak to every disability or medical issue, but I have found that when I am willing to accept help when I need it (and only when I need it), when I give my friends the information they need to walk this path with me, and when I recognize that perfection is not the goal, I am able to face my difficulties head on, as just another part of my life.
The wonderful truth to all of this is that every fact, every strategy, every lesson I learn is something I can use to help my future clients—those with hearing loss and those with other disabilities. Because I know what it is like to live with a communication disorder, I can understand and relate to my clients in a unique and personal way, encouraging them with my story even as I help guide them through theirs.
1 Comment
January 29, 2017
Susan Layton
Proud
I'm so proud of this young woman! She's always looking to God for her strength, accepting what He has for her.
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December 2016
Volume 21, Issue 12