Sunday, September 18, 2016

Deaf College Experiences

On February 28th my dreams came true.  I got accepted into Brigham Young University!  I worked incredibly hard in high school to make it into the college of my dreams.  I still remember staring at the email saying BYU admission notices were sent out.  I was terrified to open that letter because I knew my future was all decided in that letter.  I finally opened it up and was filled with relief as it said, "Congratulations! You have been admitted into Brigham Young University!"  Little did I know that I had a long road ahead of me.

It was a lot of work getting scholarship applications in, finding housing, picking my classes, paying for tuition, etc.  But as the day that I moved in got closer and closer, I couldn't help but feel really excited.  Family and friends were telling me that college is the best and that I would have a wonderful time.  

I was a little worried about going from high school to college and being able to hear the professors.  But my good friend reached out and told me about the universities accessibility center and all the services they offered.  So I made an appointment with them a few weeks before classes started.  

At the appointment I learned about the services that were offered.  They provide transcribers and interpreters to deaf people.  I didn't want interpreters because I thought it would be too distracting to watch the interpreter and listen to the professor.  The transcription services seemed like a better option for me because I can usually understand everything, but occasionally I will miss something.  

The transcription services is live-captioning.  I have 2 transcribers for each class, and they type everything the professor/students say.  They send me a link that I pull up on my laptop and I am able to follow along.  For the most part I don't rely too much on the captioning, but it can be very useful at times.  If I ever can't understand the professor either because they turned around, went to another side of the room, or were talking super fast I am able to look down at my computer and read what I missed.  It is also helpful when the students ask a question or make a comment and I can't hear them.  This was something I struggled with in high school, so it is nice in college that I am now able to understand what students say! 

My transcribers send me the transcript at the end of class, so I basically get awesome notes! It is very nice because sometimes the professor will talk really fast and I will be struggling to hear and follow along.  So at the end of class I will go back and read the transcript to make sure I fully understand the topic.  

It's hilarious because every class the people sitting next to me will usually lean over half way through class and whisper, "Woah! That is so cool! What is this? Can I get this program?"  I tell them that I am deaf and I have transcribers who type everything for me.  Their eyes go wide and they say, "How are they typing that fast?!" Haha! It is seriously the greatest.  I love having the transcription services because I am able to understand the full lecture and I get awesome notes!

My family and friends kept warning me that college is hard.   But they had no idea that it would be 10x harder for a deaf person.  I have the academic part all figured out and I am able to understand everything.  However college isn't just about school, social things are a big part.  There is always something happening on campus, and most likely all of the social activities are LOUD! 

I had my first realization that the social part of college was going to be super hard for me on the day I moved in.  There was a dorm party that evening and I was excited to go because it would be my first college party.  I showed up and knew immediately that it was going to be hard to hear.  There was music blaring, hundreds of people talking, and it was dark.  I put on my brave face and started meeting people.  I probably said "what" a hundred times.  I went back to my dorm and I was exhausted.  Trying to hear in a loud environment is so exhausting! 

I can't emphasize enough that college is SO loud!  You are constantly meeting new people in loud places. Before class starts you are talking to your neighbor and 100-700 people are also getting to know their neighbor, so as you can guess it gets pretty loud.  Volleyball games, football games, parties, etc. are so loud.  In every one of these loud settings I am always struggling to hear as I am trying to meet new people.  

Don't get me wrong, I have had a ton of fun so far!  I have great friends and an awesome roommate! I still go to all of these social things because they are fun!  I have come to accept that it will always be hard for me to hear.  I will always have to say "what" a thousand times a day.  Some days are just plain hard and exhausting and there have definitely been tears shed.

A lot of people think that only the academic part of school is hard, but for me it is also the social part.   But I'm not going to let my deafness get in the way of having fun at college.  I am still going to go to football games and parties even though they are extremely hard to hear at.  I am also still going to meet new people even if I have to ask them to repeat their name two times because I couldn't hear it.

Here is proof that I do go to social things! ;)

First Day of School

Monday, September 12, 2016


Hello!  I took a break for a little bit, but I am now back!  These past few months have been really busy!! In May I graduated from high school.  I had a 4.0 GPA, which I am super proud of.  I had an incredible senior year and it is crazy to think that I have moved onto another stage of life. 

During the summer I worked as a market research intern.  I would research the company's competitors, create a profile, and present it to the CEO.   I also had the opportunity to interpret for a deaf boy named Ben.  I knew him from my neighborhood and the company asked if I would interpret for him during the summer.  It didn't make sense to hire a full time interpreter because for the most part we were researching on computers by ourselves.  But they needed a way to communicate with him during the occasional meeting, when he presented, and to give him directions.  Ben suggested that I interpret for him because I would be working there also and I knew ASL.  

I accepted this challenge and I am so glad I did! I knew it would be difficult because well... I am deaf also!  I sometimes don't hear things and I need to read lips.  Interpreters face the deaf person the whole time and sign, but I couldn't do that.  So during the meetings I would turn around and listen/read lips and then turn around and sign for him.  It wasn't easy but we made it work.  I'm thankful that Ben was very patient with me.

I took 4 levels of ASL in high school, so I knew ASL but I was nowhere near perfect.  I learned so many new business vocabulary words during that first week.  This opportunity definitely improved my signing and I learned a lot more!  

It's funny to think that I was a deaf person interpreting for another deaf person.  In my level 4 ASL class in high school my teacher encouraged all of us to think about becoming an interpreter.  I always brushed this off and never really listened to the details of becoming an interpreter because I knew I would never be an interpreter.  I'm deaf!  But funny enough I was actually an interpreter during the summer! 

I'm glad I had the opportunity to interpret for Ben.  My signing greatly improved and I learned a lot.  I'm very grateful for my cochlear implant that allows me to hear and talk with people. 

I started college 2 weeks ago and it has been great!  Come back next week because I have some cool stuff to share!  Oh by the way you can get email updates when I post if you enter your email on the right side of the blog under "Follow by email".

Monday, January 11, 2016

Deaf Documentary Clip

My dad and I were asked to help make a documentary for a college film class.  We talked about my experiences being deaf with a cochlear implant.  It was my first time doing an interview, so I was super nervous.  I would have answered some of the questions differently, but I'm happy with the result.  

Monday, January 4, 2016

Nucleus 6 Upgrade

All my life I have gotten external processor upgrades, and they just keep getting better and better.  It is amazing how far Cochlear has come.  I started with the SPrint, which was a box that I wore on my back.  Then I got the Freedom, which got rid of the box.  However, it was still thick compared to what I have now.  Then I got the Nucleus 5 and I loved that it was smaller and thinner.

The pink fanny pack is where I put the box.
             SPrint          Freedom       Nucleus 5

I recently upgraded to the Nucleus 6.  As you can see from the diagram above, it is a little bit smaller.  It's not that big of a difference.

There is something that you should know about me.  I really hate getting remapped and I usually walk out of the appointment in tears.  I do not do well with change.  My audiologist calls me a "savvy listener".  She said that I can hear so well, that when she changes anything, even a slight change, my brain picks up on it.  Usually after a mapping everything sounds weird and loud for about three days but then my brain adjusts and everything sounds normal again.  

I wasn't looking forward to this upgrade because I didn't want to get remapped.  This was probably the hardest mapping I have ever been through.  The first thing my audiologist did was take my current map on my Nucleus 5 and converted to a Nucleus 6 map.  She turned it on, and immediately I was overwhelmed.  Everything was super loud and whenever someone talked they sounded weird and would crash at the end.  We thought maybe it was loud because my microphone covers were very dirty on my Nucleus 5 and I was hearing out of clear microphones.  Tip: make sure you change your microphone covers at least twice a year.  I know I will do that from now on!  To fix the crashing problem, my audiologist played around with some things and did a sweep of the c and t levels.  Eventually we were able to eliminate that problem.  

My audiologist told me about the new features that were added onto the Nucleus 6.  There is a background feature that lowers any unnecessary background noise like a fan or people chatter.  Because I am a "savvy listener" my audiologist turned off the suppress background feature because I like to hear everything!  Another feature is called SmartSound iQ.  This program automatically scans where you are and adjusts the programs.  So instead of manually switching to the noise program when you enter a noisy restaurant, it automatically does it for you.  I never liked to switch my programs; I preferred to stay on my everyday program.  So I knew I wouldn't like the SmartSound iQ, so we turned that off also.  

I went home and I still felt like something was wrong.  It sounded different from a normal mapping.  After taking a nap because my brain was exhausted from all of the change, I finally figured out what wrong.  Whenever there was a background noise it would amplify the background noise and then make everything super quiet.  For example my dad would be talking to me, and then my mom would turn on the sink and everything would get super loud and then it would change and go so quiet that I could barely hear my dad talking.  It was the strangest thing and it was driving me insane because it was happening constantly.  My dad looked some things up on the internet and we figured out that there was a feature called automatic sensitivity control (ASC) still on.  

We went back up to the audiologist to get ASC turned off the next day.  It was hard to trigger it in the quiet audiologist room, so we  went and tested it with a sink.  It was normal and I felt so relieved that we figured out the problem.  I also asked my audiologist if we could change the loudness of the beeps.  Whenever my cochlear implant turns on or changes programs it makes this beep, and mine was so loud.  It drove me crazy because the first thing I heard every morning was this loud obnoxious BEEP!  My audiologist figured out how to turn it down, and it is SO much better.  She loves all my feedback because she usually works with younger kids and they don't give any feedback. 

Later that night we went to a family Christmas party, and something was still wrong!  It was loud and I had a hard time hearing everyone.  Everything sounded blurred and it was really overwhelming.  Whenever I was somewhere loud, I had an extremely hard time.  At church when the organ was playing I couldn't hear the people singing because the organ and singing was blurring together.  Not only did loud situations sound blurred but whenever there was background noise and someone talked over that noise it would lower the background noise to where I couldn't hear it.  I noticed it a lot in the car or when there was a noise like a fan or the dishwasher.  The background noise constantly turned off and then back on when the person finished talking.  It was a very rough weekend.   

Thankfully my audiologist was able to fit us in on Monday.  I was so ready to fix everything and hear normal again.  The problem was that she had no idea what to do.  She didn't know what the problem was, so she called another audiologist and she gave her a few suggestions.  We made different programs with different changes and we went to the sound booth to test them out.  The audiologist put on some speech chatter and my mom yelled on the top of her lungs trying to trigger it.  We tested each program and we had little luck.  It is just so hard to replicate real life right there in the sound booth.   The audiologist told us to go home and test out all of the programs in real life and we set up an appointment for next Thursday.  We left feeling very unhopeful.

We had family party that night, and I tested out each program.  At first I changed it to program 2 where we changed the CSPL to 70 instead of 65.  It didn't help at all and I ended falling asleep after feeling overwhelmed.  When I woke up I changed it to program 3 where we changed the loudness growth to 18 and it was a little better! So I changed it to program 4 where we changed the loudness growth to 16 and it sounded so much better! It still sounded a little bit loud and weird, but it wasn't blurred.  However program 4 still didn't solve the problem with the background noise lowering.  We are going back up this Thursday so hopefully we can figure this out once and for all!

Okay enough negativity...  The best part of this upgrade is the wireless feature!!!  I absolutely love this feature.  You could say I am part cyborg because whenever I listen to music or talk on the phone it goes straight to my head through Bluetooth! Haha! It's so cool. We bought the phone clip and the mini microphone and I am so glad we did.  With the phone clip I can talk on the phone with no problems.  I used to only prefer to talk to my mom and dad and some friends on the phone because I was familiar with their voices.  When I used to talk to anyone else I really struggled.  With the phone clip, the sound goes right to me and I can hear it perfectly.  I can also listen to music and nobody would know because I am the only one who can hear it.  The music is so much more clearer and I can understand the lyrics.  

    Phone Clip      Mini Microphone

The mini microphone is awesome too because I can give someone the microphone and their voice will go straight to me.  I love using it in the car because I can be sitting in the back and I can understand the driver perfectly.  I will definitely use this on dates.  I will give it to the guy and I will be able to hear him in the noisy restaurant and on the car ride home in the dark.  I am seriously excited just thinking about all the places I can use it.   

I'm glad that my parents picked the company Cochlear because they keep coming out with great upgrades.  I'm excited to see what else they can come up with. 

Monday, December 14, 2015

Christmas Music Video ASL

In my level 4 ASL class we made another music video to the song "All I Want For Christmas Is You."

Merry Christmas and Enjoy!

All I Want For Christmas Is You ASL from Ben Cahoon on Vimeo.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Deaf Cousin

I have a deaf cousin, and I love it!

I thought I would introduce you to my deaf cousin, because I will be mentioning her more often.

Her name is Kellie, and she is 16 years old.  Her story is very similar to mine.  She was born deaf and she got a cochlear implant.  Her cochlear implant is very successful and she is actually thinking about getting a second implant.  She is very active.  She is a great basketball player.  She plays on her high school team.  She speaks very well, and is currently taking ASL at school.  

We are super close because on my dad's side I don't have any girl cousins that are my age.  Growing up we loved having sleepovers!  

I love having a deaf cousin because I have someone that understands exactly what I am going through.  Nobody else gets it like she does.  We have conversations all the time about being deaf. We talk about the positive stuff, as well as the annoying stuff.  She gets it because she goes through the same thing I am going through. 

If I ever have a rough day because of my deafness, I text Kellie.  I tell her what happened, and she always replies with what I need to hear.  I talk to my parents, but I prefer talking to Kellie because she understands.  I can't stress how important it is to me to have someone who understands what I'm going through.  It helps me realize that there are other people in the world that have the same struggles as I do.  I'm so thankful that I have someone close to me that I can talk to whenever I want to.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

My Cochlear Surgery Anniversary

16 years ago today, I had my cochlear implant surgery.  I am extremely thankful that I have a cochlear implant! I'm thankful that the surgery went well and that my cochlear implant is successful.  I would love to meet Dr. Shelton, and tell him, "Thank you!"

People often ask me if I will ever get second cochlear implant on my left ear.  Right now my answer is no, and I have several reasons why.  To be honest, the biggest reason is that I am terrified!  I do not want to get another surgery.  One of my biggest fears is that my cochlear implant will break inside, and that I will have to get another surgery and learn how to hear again.  One of the reasons I'm scared is that the facial nerve runs close to the auditory nerve.  If they nick it, your face will be paralyzed.  It's rare, but still scary.  Another reason is that I can hear great right now, and I don't want to change that.  Another reason is that I don't do well with change.  I hate going and get remapped because it always sounds different afterwards and it takes awhile for my brain to get used to it.  I think it would be really hard for me to learn how to hear again in my left ear.  

I think it would be great to have a second cochlear implant.  But I don't think I will get one.  However, if my cochlear implant does break inside (hopefully not!), I probably will get two implants because I will be getting the surgery and learning how to process sound anyway.  I would love to have a full range of hearing.  Right now, I can only hear on my right side.  If someone is calling my name on my left side, I don't turn and look over my left shoulder, I always look over my right shoulder. I think it is so weird that you guys can hear out of two ears. Haha! I've grown up my whole life only hearing out of one ear.  If I did get a second implant, I would have to get used to hearing out of two ears.  

I thought a lot about my surgery today because it is the anniversary of my surgery date.  That day, 16 years ago, my life changed forever.