We’re excited to introduce our guest blogger Ashley McGoey who is sharing her journey with Sensorineural hearing loss. This month’s topic covers a big transition many people deal with at this time of year: Graduation.

Whether you’re in college or high school, graduation may be just around the corner for you. Starting new chapters in life is always exciting, but it can be nerve-wracking too! Maybe you just graduated high school and now you’re going to start working right away or maybe you’re heading to college. If you’re graduating college, maybe you’re continuing your education in grad school or finding a full-time job. No matter which path you take, you’ll be encountering new challenges. As someone who likes change, I can assure you that this is the fun part!

As a fellow hard-of-hearing person, I understand how scary it can be to march out of your comfort zone with your hearing aids. I attended kindergarten at the same school my mom taught at, and when my hearing aid batteries died, I could just walk down to her room and ask for help. As I got older, I started taking care of my batteries on my own. I could bring a pack to school and change them as needed. Before I could drive, my parents would buy batteries for me so we would always have some at home. The transition from my small(ish) town in high school to college at the University of Wisconsin-Madison was like crunchy peanut butter — kind of smooth in some ways and kind of bumpy in other ways. I didn’t feel homesick and I had so much fun meeting new people, going to college football games, and spending time on the beautiful campus. However, it was a struggle learning how to effectively study, prioritize my rigorous courses, and manage my time so I could get good grades and not lose my mind.

In college, I was forced to be much more independent, which I did not mind one bit. However, that included being entirely responsible for making sure I always had enough hearing aid batteries. The UW-Madison campus is in downtown Madison, so there are plenty of convenience stores within walking distance for me to buy new batteries. That certainly didn’t stop me from learning the hard way that I always need to have batteries on hand! I took an organic chemistry lab my junior year that was 3 hours long. My hearing aid battery died right in the middle of it. I checked my backpack– no batteries. I spent the rest of class in a panicked state of mind counting down the minutes until I could leave and go get more batteries. As soon as it was over, I bolted out the door to go buy more. Then, of course, I had to hurry up once I got there so I wouldn’t be late to my next class. Always make sure you have enough batteries with you!

hearOclub member and Phonak hearing aid user at University of Wisconsin Madison graduation

As college graduation neared, I started applying for full-time jobs. I was so nervous. I never did internships with any companies during college, I just did research with labs on campus. I didn’t have any corporate experience so speaking with people at different companies sounded a bit frightening to me. I was afraid to talk to recruiters, but I was more afraid of not being employed for an extended amount of time after graduation. Therefore, I threw myself into every career fair on campus and started talking to everyone, despite my fears. I could barely breathe and had to mentally prepare myself  outside the room before I talked to my first recruiter at my first career fair. Once that was over with, I became more and more confident with talking to other recruiters. I even decided to talk to recruiters that were recruiting for positions I wasn’t really interested in. I went over to chat with one company and I mentioned to them that I studied abroad in Italy. Turns out, the recruiter had also studied abroad in Italy! We chatted like acquaintances getting to know each other. After we parted ways, I got an email from them a couple of weeks later. They said they were impressed with my ability to communicate with others. I was so proud that being myself made me stand out, not just my resume. I was also so surprised that I felt like I was good at talking to people because I grew up shy and observant with my hearing loss.

I got a major boost of confidence after the career fair, but the nerves returned once again when I had to start doing phone interviews with these companies. I’ve never liked talking  on the phone, and I think a lot of it has to do with my hearing loss. You can’t read someone’s lips when you’re talking on the phone, and what if the volume is as high as it goes and you still can’t hear? Forget it. I’d rather avoid it at all costs! I needed a job though, so I started using my Phonak Compilot II for phone interviews. The Compilot is a device with a microphone that you wear around your neck and it uses Bluetooth to connect your phone to your hearing aids. I practiced using it when I called my parents and all my worries melted away.  The sound was much clearer and it went directly to my ears, instead of being through a tiny cell phone speaker. Once I felt more comfortable with my phone interviews, I felt more confident that I could rock them.

hearOclub member and Phonak hearing aid user at University of Wisconsin Madison graduation

After a handful of interviews with different companies, I was offered a job at last. It worked out that I would start working a couple of weeks after graduation. Now, I’ve been working as a scientist for almost a year. I’ve enjoyed the work and being a part of the company. I’m also proud that I grew as a person in the process.

After graduating high school in June 2013 and college in May 2018 with two undergraduate degrees, I now work full-time as a scientist at a pharmaceutical company. Since I’m at work for 8 hours a day, it is much more difficult to leave work and buy more hearing aid batteries if mine die. Luckily, hearOclub exists! Every other month, I receive my batteries in the mail and take them with me in my hearOclub keychain. I’ll never have to worry about not being able to hear in critical moments and frantically running to the nearest store to buy batteries again.

hearOclub member and Phonak hearing aid user at University of Wisconsin Madison graduation

Ashley is a research scientist who writes her own hearing loss blog, you can read about her at https://canyouhearmenow.home.blog/

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