Only 93 days ago I started wearing hearing aids that I now call my “bionic ears.” Getting hearing aids wasn’t something that happened overnight, in a few weeks or even months. It took almost 28 years for everything to come together. But now that I have them, they’ve driven me to pursue a new path in teaching.
Not realizing I had a hearing loss
I struggled with school from elementary to college. In middle school, I was diagnosed with ADHD. I was told countless times to just pay attention and I would understand better and learn more. I always did my best, I wanted to try, I wanted to prove my parents and teachers wrong — but I just couldn’t. I had to accept that I had a learning disability. I took medication daily to help me in school. I would tell my parents that it wasn’t working but they insisted that I take it — they were looking out for me and wanted nothing but to see me succeed. My parents sent me to Sylvan Learning Center for two years to help me with school. Unfortunately, it didn’t help either.
Looking back, I truly believe I was wrongly diagnosed with ADHD. The problem wasn’t paying attention but that my hearing loss was going undetected. I would carefully listen to directions or lectures. I would write down steps to take notes for comprehension, but by the time I was ready to continue to listen, I was completely lost. I had missed too much of the conversation while taking notes, accidently tuning everything out so I could focus on writing down what I’d just heard. I was unaware that this was even happening to me, and I also didn’t realize that I would ask “What?” or say “Huh?” when I missed things in a conversation. I would sometimes ask people to repeat two or three times, and if I wasn’t able to understand or hear, I would simply shake my head and move on.
The next steps: seeing an ENT and VT
As I grew older, I was always the loudest at the dinner table, football games or at a birthday party. I just thought I had a loud personality, but talking loud slowly started catching up to me. I started having a continuous, non-stop raspy and squeaky voice, and after pressure from my family, I found an ENT that was able to help me. He had me stop talking for two weeks due to severe vocal nodules. Being a non-vocal teacher wasn’t ideal but with the help of my principal and co-workers, I was able to make it happen.
During my non-talking period I started attending vocal therapy lessons. During one lesson, I got so frustrated because not only could I not understand what the vocal therapist (VT) was saying, but I was also unable to repeat the sound back. After this, the VT asked me to get my hearing tested, and the results shocked me.
Recognizing my hearing loss and wearing Halos
I remembered my friend, and former sorority sister, Randi Davis was an audiologist. I called her and she immediately recommended a clinic for me and told me a little bit about hearing aids that connected to my iPhone. A few weeks later I tried on the Halo hearing aids for the first time.
The office was silent but I was hearing sounds. I could hear the fan on the computer modem. My doctor’s voice level went up. My voice sounded completely different. The sound of my doctor typing on the computer brought me to tears — it was a completely unexpected and new experience. Within a few weeks, my vocal nodules were non-existent and I was beginning to get used to my Halos. I realized I’d been talking extraordinarily loud my entire life to compensate for not being able to hear my own voice, and I also realized I really hadn’t been totally hearing my students!
A teacher’s desire to give back after wearing Halo hearing aids
Wearing my Halo hearing aids has completely changed my life. Paying attention comes naturally to me now. I learn more. I actively participate in conversations. And now, I am excited to get to make a difference with my “bionic ears.”
I’ve always known I wanted to be a teacher, but when I learned of my hearing loss, I decided deaf education was for me. This fall, I will start the deaf education program at Washington University in St. Louis and could not be happier. I could not imagine my life now without all the sounds I had been missing.
I do still find it ironic that even though I struggled in school for so long, I still became a teacher. My heart is in the classroom teaching. I have the desire and passion to be a successful student and teacher. I teach English as a Second Language to kindergarten, first-, and second-grade students, and have been teaching for three years. I love educating young children and watching their academic, social and emotional skills grow.
This is a guest post from featuring a Starkey Hearing Technologies hearing aid wearer. Lauren Tesson Lauren Tesson is a graduate of University of Missouri - St. Louis where she received a B.S. in Elementary Education with an emphasis in literature. Lauren taught 1st grade, 3rd grade, and English as a Second Language before deciding to go back to school. As of fall 2016, Lauren is attending Washington University in St. Louis to start working on her masters in Deaf Education.