User Stories

“My Goal Is To Become A Speech-Language Pathologist“: Sarah’s Childhood As The Sister Of a CI User

Meet Sarah, 18 years old, from North Carolina in the United States. Sarah’s sister Rachel has been using cochlear implants since the girls were little. In her guest article Sarah, who recently graduated from High School, shares what having a sister with CIs meant for her and which impact her sister’s hearing loss has had on her professional aspirations.

Hello! My name is Sarah. I am 18 years old and from Raleigh, North Carolina. I love to dance (particularly ballet) and have been dancing since I was 3 years old. Throughout high school I have danced for over 20 hours a week! I also love to read every night. Recently during this quarantine, I’ve had a lot of free time, so I love to watch Netflix, bake desserts, and spend time with my sisters Rachel and Sophie!

Growing Up With A Sibling With Hearing Implants

My sister Rachel got her first cochlear implant when she was 10 months old and her second one at 2.5 years old. My parents told me that she had hearing loss which meant she could not hear me even if I was super loud. They explained that her cochlear implants helped her hear normally but I should still speak clearly and slowly because it would be harder for her to understand sounds, especially when she first got them. I was only 2-3 years old when she got her cochlear implants, so I don’t remember much about her surgeries.

Rachel’s hearing journey has been very successful and because of her early intervention, most people never know she has hearing loss unless she tells them.

It is amazing to see that she can accomplish anything that I can because of her cochlear implants.

This has mainly impacted my life as a child because in a lot of situations I acted as her advocate. I would introduce her to new friends and make sure they faced Rachel when they spoke and made sure she understood everything. Over time, it has made me a pretty loud and clear speaker and I am very good at public speaking and talking in crowded areas. Rachel says she can read my lips and my other sister’s lips most easily because of how clearly we talk. I also think it has made me an outgoing person who is not afraid to approach people and welcome them. I think I am a more caring, kind, and patient person because I make sure everyone has what they need and will always ask people if they need help.

Supporting My Sister On Her Hearing Journey

I have been supporting Rachel by making sure she gets everything she needs in various environments such as school, dance, etc. I usually check in with her every so often to see if she needs help with something. My parents have done so much more for her than I even realize. One example was that they made a booklet about Rachel and her hearing loss to give to her preschool and elementary school teachers which helped her teachers better understand how to communicate with Rachel.

I am fortunate that I have not experienced or witnessed any challenges for Rachel; she’s never been bullied or been doubted because of her hearing loss which is amazing. I want that to be the experience for every child with hearing loss.

Now I don’t really get asked about Rachel’s cochlear implants anymore unless I talk about her hearing loss first, but I did more explaining when we were younger. One place where I explained a lot about her hearing loss was at the pool because her implants were not waterproof. Whenever we met someone new at the pool to play with, I’d explain that Rachel is completely deaf and she cannot hear you at all. Sometimes I’d have Rachel turn around and say something to her and they would understand when she did not respond. I told them that she could read lips as long as they spoke slowly and clearly to her. I also explained how she uses spoken language to communicate and her cochlear implants are devices that can help her hear normally, but they cannot get wet. Now I usually say she has hearing loss but her cochlear implants help her hear perfectly. People don’t have to do anything different about their speech anymore because she understands things really well.

My Dream Job: Speech-Language Pathologist

I have always known that I wanted to be in a profession that involves helping other people, so I was drawn to the medical field. However, I did not know what specific job I wanted within this broad field. In my junior year, I took a Sociology class and our main project was a research paper about anything we wanted to learn more about. I decided to do mine on the importance of Early Intervention and how it impacts children with hearing loss as they grow up in society.

I did a lot of research, including interviewing a speech-language pathologist and I learned more about what her specific job entailed. I learned about the importance of Speech-Language Pathologists and how much they help children with hearing loss, like my sister.

It sounded perfect for me because it involves helping other people, seems very rewarding, and requires a lot of personal skills that I believe I have. I also realized that this would be a great career when I told my mom that I want to do for other children what Kathryn, Rachel’s Speech-Language Pathologist and Auditory-Verbal Therapist, did for her.

Learning about Kathryn’s job over the years helped inspire my desire to become a Speech Language Pathologist. When applying to colleges, I focused on schools with the Communication Sciences and Disorders major because it is the major most related to Speech-Language Pathology Master’s Degree programs. The classes at my future school all look super interesting and it is something that I am already passionate about. I’m excited to learn primarily about a topic that I am very interested in!

My goal as a Speech-Language Pathologist is to have a private practice helping children with hearing loss under the age of three (according to NC law) learn how to listen and talk with their cochlear implants/ hearing aids. I would like to do for other children essentially what Rachel’s Speech Language Pathologist did for her.

My Advice For Others And Dreams For The Future

I would say the biggest advice is to always be a helpful resource and good advocate for the person. Make sure that they can understand what is being communicated and make sure that they are getting the resources they need to succeed. This works for siblings as well. Be kind to your siblings and help them if they need it.

Right now, I’m excited to start my college education and am planning to obtain a Master’s Degree in Speech-Language Pathology so I can start practicing! I want Rachel to continue to thrive in her life and want her to achieve any dream she wants to accomplish.

Thanks, Sarah!

Interested in more guest articles? Read on to find out how Jessica from the UK was able to celebrate her dream wedding – thanks to her cochlear implant.


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