By Emmalyn Campbell
What is it like to walk in someone else’s shoes? Many are familiar with this concept but not its experience. After all, people live different lives for a reason and rarely imagine a world that is not the one they know.
Even if it may not be possible to share someone else’s experience, it is possible to acknowledge it. An academic community is often the best place to have these conversations, and this was demonstrated by “Hearing Loss: The Lived Experience,” a campus event held in Stroud Hall on Tuesday, March 27.
The event was held in 117 and began at 6:30pm. Audiologist Dr. Susan Dillmuth-Miller gave a presentation about hearing loss and then led a panel discussion where four ESU students, Vincenzo Bono, Thomas Stocker, Byron Crone and Joe Schell, engaged with audience members about their experiences with hearing loss and being a student with hearing loss.
Dr. Dillmuth-Miller began the presentation by asking the audience what they knew about signs of hearing loss and explained her job as an audiologist, a person who tests for, diagnoses and treats hearing loss, as well as educates others about preventing hearing loss.
According to her presentation, 4 out of 1000 college students have some form of hearing loss, and the number is 1 out 3 for older people. Dr. Dillmuth-Miller also reported that only 70% of college students with hearing loss graduate.
She then asked the audience to try “unfair spelling test,” where participants are asked to write down 10 words that they hear, but the sound is altered to demonstrate how someone with hearing loss may hear them. By a show of hands, the majority of the audience heard less than 50% of the words correctly. She also noted how some did not try or looked at the answers of others.
After the presentation, Dr. Dillmuth-Miller turned the conversation over to the audience and the four ESU students who agreed to share their experiences with hearing loss.
Vincenzo Bono is a senior majoring in rehabilitation and human services. He used to have profound hearing loss until he received a cochlear implant, which sends sounds directly to one’s auditory nerve, and now his hearing loss is moderate.
He revealed that choosing a college was difficult because he was unsure if he would be properly accommodated. He said that while services like note takers helped him because he is a visual learner, it took a while to figure out which accommodations would work best.
Joe Schell, a graduate student with unilateral hearing loss in his right ear, admitted that he at first did not want to draw attention to his hearing loss, since it is an “invisible disability.”
When asked about accommodations at ESU, Byron Crone revealed that while there were some professors who did not put forth much effort, the majority of his instructors, especially the ones in the History Department, provided him with appropriate accommodations.
An audience member then asked the students about how they interact with people who do not understand their hearing loss. Joe Schell explained that sometimes the most frustrating interactions can be with those closest to him.
Thomas Stocker, who studies history and is graduating a year early, said that it can be frustrating to have to continually explain his hearing loss to others, so sometimes he stays away from social activities as a result. He also gave important parting words to the audience: “Just because we’re different, doesn’t mean we’re not worth your time.”
Hear 4 U, a campus support group for students with all types and severities of hearing loss, meets on the second and fourth Tuesday of each month on the second–floor lobby of Monroe Hall. Those with further questions can reach out to Dr. Dillmuth-Miller at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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