Diagnosed with mild hearing loss secondary to enlarged vestibular aqueduct syndrome/Pendred syndrome meant that Michelle’s life would certainly be different than most. By the age of 10, she was diagnosed with profound bilateral sensorineural hearing loss. Michelle’s family would have never guessed that she would grow up to become a pediatric audiologist and a classically-trained chef — but that’s exactly what she did.
“If you had told my mom 35 years ago that I would grow up to become both a pediatric audiologist and a classically trained chef she never would have believed you. At that time, I was diagnosed with mild hearing loss secondary to enlarged vestibular aqueduct syndrome (EVAS)/Pendred syndrome. My mom was told that I would probably not go beyond a third-grade reading level.
As a result of EVAS, my hearing loss progressed each time I hit my head. This happened in first, third and fifth grades, and by the time I was 10 years old, I had bilateral profound sensorineural hearing loss.
Another sudden drop in hearing
During my senior year of college, I had another sudden drop in hearing. I was sitting in the lobby waiting to have my hearing tested when my mom suggested that perhaps I’d make a good audiologist since I had firsthand experience with hearing loss and hearing aids. I was still unsure of what direction I wanted to go after graduation and this suggestion floored me. YES. I wanted to help others in a healthcare setting, but I just didn’t have a pull to a specific field. That year my hearing came back with the help of intratympanic steroid injections, but I was already filling out applications with the goal to attend the Northeast Ohio Audiology Consortium.
It was during our third year that we started to learn about cochlear implants. One night I was excitedly chatting about this with my parents, and they told me that I had been a cochlear implant candidate since I was young! They had chosen not to move forward since they were wary of the technology at the time and told me that because I had adapted and learned how to thrive academically that they did not feel it was a necessity.
Looking into cochlear implants
I decided to undergo pre-cochlear implant evaluations again and was implanted later that year! For the first time in a very long time I could hear my feet shuffle on the carpet, the turn signal of my car, utensils tapping on dishes and leaves rustling with the wind. I could hear and understand conversation in a dark car, on the telephone and my confidence soared. I no longer avoided birthday parties, movie theaters or other social gatherings.
I’ve since moved across the country from Kent, Ohio to San Diego, California to work as a pediatric audiologist. I don’t think I ever would have made such a big move had I not received my first cochlear implant. I did not have the confidence to feel safe walking alone at night or talking on the phone with anyone other than my parents. With my listening skills and thresholds I get to have with my cochlear implants, the sky is the limit.
About five years ago I had the opportunity to scratch culinary school off of my bucket list. It was THE most difficult listening situation that I CHOSE to subject myself to for a long time (eight months!). The tiled floors, stainless steel equipment, appliances, high ceilings, exhaust fans, walls of refrigerators and water constantly running were an educational audiologist’s acoustic nightmare. Not to mention, my chef/professor had a heavy French accent!
But I endured. I had him wear my FM system, I constantly asked for repetition, I asked my station buddy for clarification and I took copious notes. I messed up, I spilled things, I ruined dishes, I lost fingertips, I burned myself…AND I mastered sauces, I broke down poultry and seafood, I created menus, I plated, I garnished and it was WORTH it.
I am currently a pediatric audiologist in Southern California, mama of two little girls, two fur babies and military wife. I love being involved in the community as a volunteer with Cochlear, CA Hands and Voices and via my Instagram account @mama.hu.hears, where I share personal stories and experiences from my hearing journey.”
Are you interested in cochlear implants like Michelle, a pediatric audiologist with hearing loss, was? Learn more here.