by Melissa Auchter, AuD
“Going to college is scary and exciting all at the same time. One of the things I knew was going to be a challenge is managing my hearing loss on my own. As I knew my parents wouldn’t be there to help me fight for my accommodations anymore when I faced an issue, it was important for me to find support within the university I chose. Every tour I took, I made sure I had an appointment with the university’s disabilities/accessibilities office. We would discuss what services they offered, such as preferential seating, ASL interpreter as needed, Cart writer, and copies of notes, etc. Then, I looked into rooming accommodations like flashing lights for emergencies or when someone was at my door. I talked to everyone I could and met sign language interpreters at the tours and I made sure I felt comfortable. I also made sure that the program offering my major was willing to work with me and my hearing loss, since there may be some barriers in class. Doing all of this has allowed me to find a second home at WCU.” Chloe, Children’s Cochlear Implant Center at UNC Patient
I got into college, now what?
The transition to college can be a challenging time for all teenagers. For teenagers who use cochlear implants, it can present some unique questions about their college experience. Here are answers to the most common questions about the transition to college:
- What alarm clock can I use to help me wake up in the morning?
Many cochlear implant users rely on family members to wake them up for high school in the morning as they are unable to hear tradition alarm clocks. If you stay in the dorm in college, this won’t be an option anymore. Cell phones have apps that provide a vibrating alarm, but this may not be strong enough. Several companies sell alarm clocks that either vibrate the bed or flash lights to help adults with hearing loss wake up on time. More information can be found here: https://www.harriscomm.com/equipment/alarm-clocks.html or https://www.ncdhhs.gov/assistance/hearing-loss/assistive-technology-for-the-deaf-and-hard-of-hearing
- What services are available to me?
Most colleges and universities have student disabilities office. They can help you out with finding services to help you in college. This can include interpreters, note takers, FM systems, or tutoring services. To find out what is available at your university or college, contact disability services for more information. More information for some of North Carolina’s local schools can be found here:
NC State: https://dso.dasa.ncsu.edu/
- How do I talk to my professors about my hearing loss?
Now that you’re in college, advocating for yourself is an important skill to learn. Most professors are happy to wear a microphone or provide reasonable accommodations to help you learn. You can talk to them prior to your first class or during their office hours. Professors all have scheduled office hours specifically for students to come by and talk with them. You can always stop by your professor’s office during these hours to discuss the accommodations with them. Many students, after discussing with the professor, will place the FM microphone (or wireless microphones) up on the professor’s desk or podium before class and then collect it at the end of class. For classes with TA’s, you can also talk to them about the class. Disability services can also help you figure out how to have these conversations. Don’t be afraid to speak up if you didn’t hear something!!
- What do I do if my equipment breaks?
You can always call or email your audiologist if something breaks (our number at the Children’s Cochlear Implant Center is 919-419-1449). We can help you get working parts. The companies are also able to help you get the equipment you need. The phone numbers for the companies are: Cochlear 1-800-483-3123; Med El 919-572-2222; Advanced Bionics 1-877-829-0026. You can also try using your back-up equipment. Before going to college, make sure you know how to use all of the equipment. You should be able to take your external equipment apart and put it all back together again. If you need help with this, contact your audiologist for an appointment to learn how to use all of the equipment.
- My new school is asking for medical records documenting my hearing loss, who do I contact?
For any medical records from UNC, hearing or otherwise, you can contact our medical records department. Visit their website https://www.uncmedicalcenter.org/uncmc/patients-visitors/medical-records/ for more information.