What did you think when you first learned I was deaf?

Did you ever have any fears about my future when you learned I was deaf?

Do you ever think about what high school would be like if you didn’t have a cochlear implant?

These are just some of the real questions and honest answers a mother, Allison E., and daughter, Reagan E. (16), sat down to ask each other in the “I Want You to Hear” video series.

The “I Want You to Hear” video series explores the emotional journey for parents and children of what it’s like to find out your child is born deaf, navigating the new world of hearing loss, deciding on cochlear implants and how kids who are deaf can succeed just like any other kid with the help of their cochlear implants.

Watch the trailer for Reagan and Allison’s story, read more about their story below and watch Reagan and Allison’s full “I Want You to Hear” series here on YouTube.

If you’re a parent of a child with hearing loss looking for treatment options to help your child to speak and communicate too, visit IWantYouToHear.com.

Allison shares more on their family’s story:

My daughter, Reagan, was diagnosed via universal newborn hearing screening in 2000. She was among the first in our state to be screened as Kansas started mandatory screenings in January 2000.

Reagan is third of four siblings and our only family member with hearing loss.

When our daughter was first diagnosed with profound hearing loss, the future for deaf and hard of hearing babies meant that many parents were scrambling to learn sign language.

We were confronted with the reality that our daughter’s ability to develop language would be directly tied to our ability to learn sign language. My husband and I knew that silence would separate our daughter from the family that she was born into, and eventually it could lead to educational decisions that would place her outside of the traditional classrooms that her older sisters were a part of.

This was a time of uncertainty for our family and our daughter’s development was of great concern to us. We had no idea what Reagan’s future would hold and many of the hopes and dreams we had as parents were hanging in the balance as we sought strategies to help her develop and thrive.

The choice to pursue a cochlear implant for Reagan gave us hope. Since Reagan never received benefit from hearing aids alone, our decision was made simple, as we knew that the implant would bring sound to her for the very first time. If the only benefit was the presence of sound for safety purposes, we knew that alone would be of great benefit. Our greatest desire, however, was for her to learn to listen and develop spoken language.

The first cochlear implant surgery Reagan had was when she was 1 year old, and then she became the first pediatric bilateral recipient at our clinic in 2004.

Reagan’s cochlear implant activations and programming always went extremely well. She was a happy, well-adjusted baby but with sound, she blossomed. Her development was extraordinary. Within a month of initial activation, we could tell she was attending to sound and responding to her name. She withstood the programming well and each time our audiologist made adjustments, she took to the changes quickly.

While it was a process, we could see remarkable strides, which were quite rewarding. Since she is the third girl born within three years to my husband and me, our household was a language-rich environment that Reagan was fully emerged in. We attended bi-weekly sessions with an auditory-verbal therapist and were instructed in ways we could continue to help her reach her full potential with speech and listening development.

By the time Reagan entered kindergarten at the age of 5, she no longer required speech/language services. She had developed speech skills that were on par with her hearing peers and her pronunciation was extremely clear. Her IEP (Individualized Education Program) goals were for preferred seating and accommodation for access to instruction, but she was able to fully participate in the classroom environment.

Some of the activities Reagan enjoyed most during elementary school were volleyball and dance. She enjoyed deep friendships in elementary school and has always enjoyed meeting new people and experiencing exciting new adventures to the point of becoming a thrill-seeker at times. She was extremely fortunate to have a large extended family and spent lots of time growing up surrounded by dozens of cousins, aunts and uncles. Reagan has been known to be the life of the party and enjoys hosting sleepovers and get-together with friends multiple times per week.

Interestingly, each stage of Reagan’s development was enhanced by the advancements in technology that Cochlear incorporates in their devices. She began with a body worn processor with long wires running to her coil that she wore in a pouch. By the time she entered school, she was able to upgrade to ear-level processors. Our family was excited when the processors became water-resistant and the Aqua+ has been a huge benefit to us as we enjoy water sports and activities as a family.

Having Reagan able to hear and fully engage with us made us feel better about her safety and gave us more together time rather than her being excluded from those activities due to a lack of sound and communication.

Reagan is now a college-bound, high school senior. She has taken advantage of many dual-credit college courses offered by her high school and is ranked in the top third of her class. Some of her high school highlights have included participating at the Kansas State High School Cross Country Championships and the State Track and Field Meet. Reagan’s extracurricular activities currently include serving as a Varsity Cheerleader, Spirit Club President and Yearbook Business Editor. Future plans for Reagan include attending college to study pre-dentistry, and she is looking forward to living in on-campus housing and plans to participate in Greek life.

Cochlear implant technology has been a tremendously rewarding experience for Reagan and our entire family over the course of her life.”

Renee Oehlerking

Renee Oehlerking is the Public Relations Manager at Cochlear Americas where she is responsible for the region’s public relations and consumer marketing social media. Renee enjoys uncovering, telling and showcasing the inspiring stories of hearing implant recipients. As a recent transplant to Denver, Colorado, Renee enjoys exploring all that the state has to offer outdoors.