Student. Intern. Artist. Sarah is Grateful for Her Ponto 5 SuperPowers

Oticon Medical advocate and recent summer intern Sarah Sabal shares her experience before and after upgrading to Ponto™ 5 SuperPower bone conduction hearing devices.

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Born with Microtia and Atresia, I grew up in a seemingly busy world that, to me, was quiet. It was like watching a silent movie of people living their everyday life. As a young child, I eventually developed my thoughts and emotions through my artwork—a form of visual communication.

Later, when I got adopted in 2007, I was aided at the age of 8 with my first hard-wired bone anchored hearing devices on a headband. At first, I was shocked to hear for the first time, but later on, I had discomfort from wearing my hard-wired headband for a prolonged time, with addition to constant feedback. In 2013, I started wearing Ponto devices, and I now wear the Ponto 5 SuperPower.

I received multiple scholarships before going to college. I was awarded two government scholarships in Critical Language Scholarship funded by the State Department, and Boren Awards by the National Security. In addition, I have received multiple awards in art contests and been on RIT’s Dean’s List for having a GPA higher than 3.40.

Going to college, I was so grateful that I could do well in classes and make new friends. Wearing my Ponto 5 SuperPower processors allow me to hear the surrounding environment through OpenSound Navigator™ (full 360-degree soundscape). Most of the time, I use my ConnectClip™ to stream music, videos, and Zoom calls through my laptop, and EduMic™ to hear my professors in classroom settings.

I recently worked with Oticon Medical as a summer Digital Marketing intern. The resources provided by my college (RIT) and Oticon Medical gave me the opportunity to achieve success. My motivation and career plan are to pursue Marketing with the ability to speak Chinese for future opportunities. I am currently studying abroad in Taiwan under my Boren Awards scholarship.

I hope my motivation and determination to succeed despite my deafness will encourage others that anything is possible when you have a positive mindset!

Mother. Student. Advocate. Camilla Juggles It All with Ponto 5 SuperPower

Camilla Gilbert has faced many obstacles in life, including bilateral microtia/atresia with hearing loss and other challenges. Yet nothing has deterred her from helping others and advancing her education. Now she is doing it all with support from her Ponto™ 5 SuperPower bone anchored hearing devices.

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I had heard about many people with Ponto 5 SuperPower devices and wanted to try them. I heard that it was terrific regarding the sound quality, power, and feedback reduction.

Before I went back to school for my Masters in Social Work (MSW), I went to school to learn about Deaf culture and history, and ASL. What motivated me to return to school was to become a role model for myself, my daughter, and the communities I knew I would serve one day. I want to help and support people who feel like there is no hope in the Deaf/hard of hearing communities and the disabled community. I am currently pursuing my Doctor of Education degree in Educational Leadership.

My experience wearing a Ponto to school as an adult compared to going to a school as a kid without treatment is different. I’m able to understand more clearly. I can not only hear the professors, but participate in dialogue with my classmates.

Wearing the Ponto 5 SuperPower is also helping me achieve my goals as an employee, since I’m very new to my position. I can hear my colleagues whispering in their office with the door closed. Maybe we have thin walls, but before this new Ponto 5 SuperPower, I could not hear the whispering!

With Ponto 5 SP, I can communicate in a social situations, such as at a restaurant, in meetings, and at various appointments. Before, I struggled with understanding what people were saying in social situations. Now I can engage more without listening fatigue.

My hearing journey hasn’t been easy. However, this journey is who I am and will always be. Life is what you make out of it, so we must embrace our differences, weirdness, disabilities, and technology. Without technologies from Oticon Medical, which believes that Sound Matters, I wouldn’t understand hearing health’s quality and importance. If you are at a crossroads in your hearing journey, I suggest you do your research about Ponto 5 SuperPower.

Pastor Ross Feels Like Himself Again With Ponto 5 SuperPower

Ross Wiseman, pastor and avid hiker, struggled to engage with his congregation and enjoy his leisure time after losing his hearing in one ear suddenly. Treating his hearing loss with a Ponto™ bone anchored hearing system was a life-changing experience. Recently, Ross upgraded to the Ponto 5 SuperPower, and in this new testimonial video, shares how much he loves this next-gen technology.

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The hair cells of my auditory nerves died over a weekend. Friday night, I felt like my ear was stuffed up. Didn’t feel sick at all. Saturday morning I was fine. Was coaching soccer later that day and it happened again. By evening I was fine. Sunday morning, I preached, went home, and took a nap. When I woke up, I couldn’t hear anymore. I thought maybe I was getting a cold or had an ear infection. I called the ENT. When that visit ended, he told me that I was permanently deaf in my left ear. They scheduled a CAT scan to see if I had a tumor. I did not; it was single-sided deafness (SSD) with no explanation.

For over 10 years I lived unaided and was miserable. I couldn’t hear my wife on dates when we would eat out, or when we hiked. She hikes in front of me and when she would speak it was useless to try and communicate. I struggled to enjoy watching tv with my kids or hear at events like ball games. Teaching would make me sick to my stomach as I had to turn my head back and forth to try and hear everyone at the table or in the room). I would often sit with others and just smile because I was lost by the conversations that were going around me. I never could tell what anyone was saying, so it created a disconnect.

When I got my first Ponto, we had our church’s tenth anniversary party. I had so many people come to me who had been with me before I went deaf and say it felt good to have their pastor back. I was out in the open talking to everyone rather than in a corner with one person talking. I was also smiling a lot because I was engaged. I didn’t realize that, during those noisy events, I used to zone out and my face showed it. My Ponto changed everything!

If your audiologist doesn’t use Oticon Medical devices, demand that they reach out to Oticon Medical or find an audiologist who will. I was my doctor’s first Ponto user and implant surgery. Oticon Medical was amazing in sending them a product representative, and when it was time, a surgical rep to explain minimally invasive Ponto surgery (MIPS). Now the majority of their patients who need a bone anchored option go with a Ponto.

 

Isla Feels More Confident Than Ever with New Ponto 5 SuperPowers

Katelyn Harkins tells us how getting fit bilaterally with Ponto 5™ SuperPower processors have helped her eight-year-old daughter Isla blossom socially.

Isla was born with bilateral microtia/atresia. She was adopted from China at 20 months old and had no access to sound prior to coming home. She received Ponto bone anchored hearing processors on a softband as loaners from Oticon Medical the month she turned two and loved them immediately. She even insisted on wearing them to nap!

We are privileged enough to have access to excellent hearing solutions from Oticon Medical, which give Isla a near normal audiogram. We are also lucky to have a school for the Deaf nearby, which gives Isla access to education provided in both spoken English and American Sign Language (ASL).

We were very excited to hear OM was coming out with a Ponto 5 SuperPower! Isla’s hearing loss is severe enough that the extra headroom of the SuperPower allows for access to as much sound as possible, and equally little feedback. Isla was thrilled that the upgrade gave her onboard controls for volume and mute.

Isla’s upgrade included getting bilaterally implanted*. In researching implantation, I understood minimally invasive Ponto surgery (MIPS) was minimally invasive compared to the old “long cut” or “pocket” methods: one hole punched in the skin, one hole drilled and filled with a tiny screw. I brought my research to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) ENT and Isla was his first MIPS surgery. He expressed that he loved the process and was very impressed with the how easily it went. In this video, (Isla was still waiting six months to “snap on” her processors because her skull bones are thin).

The Ponto 5 SPs are amazing!  My daughter has loved her devices from the beginning, and we always made them fun by having a bunch of different colored softbands to choose from each morning. She has absolutely blossomed in public and more crowded situations with the upgrade to P5 SPs. She’s more willing to get out there and play or join a group of kids she doesn’t know. Absolutely worth it!

* Ponto surgery is contraindicated for patients under 5 years of age. The subject here is shown wearing two ponto 5 superpowers on a softband but has undergone the surgery stated by the parent. Outcomes and healing times wary patient to patient. Please consult your caregiver.

Professional. Sport Enthusiast. Ponto 5 SuperPower Wearer

Advocate Jay Wiecheta wants you to know how Ponto™ 5 SuperPower supports his busy, active lifestyle. 

Jay Wietecha lost the hearing in his right ear at the end of July 2018 due to a 1.8 cm acoustic neuroma that was surgically removed. Despite his surgeons’ best efforts to leave the hearing nerve intact, it still went out and he was left with single-sided deafness (SSD).

Jay spoke to a treatment coordinator post-op who also happened to have become deaf on one side following removal of an acoustic neuroma. She was a Ponto user and advised Jay that it was his best option and worth looking into. In October of 2018, Jay went through the minimally invasive Ponto surgery (MIPS) and had his first Ponto activated in November of that year.

Jay was inspired by his coordinator’s advocacy to pay it forward and advocate for others who might benefit from bone anchored hearing technology. He shares, “As an active member of the Acoustic Neuroma Association, I have been involved with several support groups over the years in which I openly share my experiences and successes with others who are on the same journey, including my decision to have a bone anchored hearing device. I have developed a close relationship with my local ENT who originally diagnosed my tumor and have shared with him how well my device has improved the quality of life, so he can help his patients become informed of the benefits. I often have open discussions with my own patients about the many benefits to having a Ponto and how well it has served me. Whenever someone asks me about the device, even when I’m out in public, I will stop and chat with even strangers about how great the device is and how it benefits me.”

Recently, Jay decided it was time to upgrade to the new Ponto 5 SuperPower. The following are his thoughts and experiences with a device he says has, “A very vibrant and robust sound quality!”

A User Shares His Thoughts after Upgrading to Ponto 5 SuperPower

Steffen upgraded from the Ponto™ 3 SuperPower to the new Ponto 5 SuperPower to treat his single-sided deafness recently. The following are his thoughts, which he kindly gave us permission to share.

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I am still very happy with my Ponto SuperPower 5. It continues to remain superior to my old Ponto 3 SP. Notably, the ambient background sound is much more naturally quiet. The Ponto 3 SP had more background noises that made it obvious that I was wearing a hearing device. For the Ponto 5SP, I often have to double-check that it’s even on if it’s quiet in the room or outside. Happily, I’m just confirming that it’s just really quiet in the room or outside vs. a dead battery, etc. On an especially windy day outside, I might switch to “Comfort” mode, but usually it’s not really required.

I’m deaf in my right ear. In a busy, noisy setting, I tend to cock my left ear in the direction of the noise I’m  trying to hear but seem to be hearing just fine when walking with someone on my right side. There’s always room for technology improvement in my mind. I’d even be interested in a hearing system that makes me hear better than someone with two good ears!

I really like utilizing my iPhone® with the Ponto 5 SP for work meetings and phone calls. I do not tend to use the accessory (Oticon ConnectClip™), which is designed to do something similar on my Android™ phone.  When I’m using the iPhone, I can’t even tell if the sound is external or internal!

Cosmetically, I do like that the Ponto 5 SuperPower processor is smaller than the Ponto 3 SP. Not that big of a deal for me, but in the future, I would be interested in a Ponto that is even smaller and less noticeable out in public. If there is a way to develop one that is flush with my head and does not stick out as much, that would be nice as well. Bottom line is that I’m a very happy customer already but am open to even further improvements.

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Are you ready to upgrade to our latest SuperPower technology? Find out how: Ponto 5 SuperPower Upgrade.

What New Users Have to Say about Ponto 5 SuperPower

During the month of July, we have been traveling around to film a series of new user stories with wearers of the Ponto 5 SuperPower. Our subjects have provided us with wonderful insights into their experiences so far, and we are excited to share a preview of their opinions in this blog post.

On choosing to get the Ponto 5 SuperPower

“I’ve heard about many people with Ponto 5 SuperPower devices and wanted to try them. I heard that it was terrific regarding the sound quality, power, and no feedback.” – Camilla G.

“Coming from the 3SP and then to the four, I was always looking for a little more sound from the P4. The P5SP now has all that and then some!” – Jay W.

“Sounded very similar to P5 Mini because of the programming that fits me comfortably and it’s already excellent as the P5 Mini.” – Sarah S.*

“We were very excited to hear OM was coming out with a Ponto 5 SuperPower! (My daughter’s) hearing loss is severe enough that the extra headroom of the SuperPower allows for access to as much sound as possible, and, equally, as little feedback. – Katelyn H.

“I have been using the Ponto 5 Superpower since it became available, and it is so great!” – Anonymous user

First impressions of the Ponto 5 SP

“At my office, I made some hot coffee; I noticed that buzzing noise in my right ear Ponto and realized that it was the steam from my coffee. Maybe my office was very quiet that day or I didn’t know hot coffee had a sound.” – Camilla G.

“A very vibrant and robust sound quality.” – Jay W.

“I like the SuperPower for its longer battery life, especially when streaming wirelessly.” – Sarah S.

“The first thing I noticed when (my daughter) put on the P5SPs was that she was more aware of background noises and high frequency sounds, like birds, bugs, water, the pool filter, and background noise like other people’s conversations going on around her.” – Katelyn H.

“Hearing this naturally makes a really big difference day to day and there is a depth to the sound that I have not experienced with any previous bone conduction device (I have used).” – Anonymous user

Improvements noticed wearing the Ponto 5 SuperPower

“I can communicate in a social situation, such as a restaurant, a meeting, and various appointments. Before, I struggled with understanding what people were saying in social situations. Now I can engage more without listening fatigue.” – Camilla G.

“I can be in the living room watching tv and hear subtle noises from the laundry room which is around three corners and down the hall. That wasn’t possible with my older devices.” – Jay W.

“Wearing my Ponto 5 SuperPower allows me to hear the surrounding environment through OpenSound Navigator™ (full 360-degree soundscape).” – Sarah S.

“At school, (my daughter) is more confident in group settings. She’s better focused in class and isn’t constantly interrupting or distracted, trying to keep track of what’s being said behind her.” – Katelyn S.

“The amazing streaming volume, which to me sounds louder and not distorted, and I would say that this is certainly a step forward compared to any of my previous devices.” – Anonymous user

Five things wearers love about Ponto 5 SuperPower

“Music, music, music… I think I made that clear!” – Camilla G.

“I find that in some situations it actually is almost too loud. I find myself turning it down instead of wishing it had more power, which is awesome.” – Jay W.

“I like that I have the choice to control the volume either through my phone or onboard features.” – Sarah S.

“(My daughter) loves hearing the birds and crickets. She found a baby bird nest the other day by listening to their cries and going to see what it was.” – Katelyn H.

“I now have the power and processing that makes sounds feel incredibly natural. I can tell that there is a calmness and relaxation in my body and mind when I am wearing the Ponto 5 Superpower.” – Anonymous user

Ready to try out or upgrade? Learn everything you need to know about Ponto 5 SuperPower!

*Disclosure: Sarah S. is a summer intern with Oticon Medical as well as a Ponto wearer.

Protecting Your Hearing and How to Maintain Good Hearing Health

Sounds are everywhere and often louds sounds are signs of a good time. But how do we participate in the fun while also protecting our hearing now and for the future?

Beyond Independence Day, July is a month filled with fireworks displays. It is important for us to think about not only the loud booms we hear from fireworks, but noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) as a broader epidemic.

Variables in noise-induced hearing loss

NIHL can be caused by long-term exposure to loud sounds, or in some cases, short, loud blasts. This type of hearing loss can be transient or persistent. The hearing loss may present itself immediately or it may take many years to show up on a hearing test. And while it often happens to both ears, it could affect just one ear. While NIHL can present itself in many different forms and may be the result of many different types of exposures, it is almost always preventable.

What kinds of sounds can damage our hearing?

Sound is measured in units called decibels. According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, sounds softer than 70 dBA are unlikely to cause hearing loss. However, sounds that are at or above 85 dBA can[1].

An intense one-time exposure to a loud sound, such an explosion or a jet engine, can cause a sudden change in hearing. Whereas slow exposure to loud sounds over time, such as a loud work environment, loud music, and loud recreational activities, may also cause hearing loss.

Noises are more likely to cause damage if they are 85 dBA for a few hours, 100 dBA for 14 minutes or longer, or 110 dBA for 2 minutes. This is a startling realization when we consider some examples of sounds that may be louder than we think!

  • Movie theater: 74-104 dBA
  • Motorcycles and dirt bikes: 80-110 dBA
  • Music through headphones at maximum volume, sporting events, and concerts: 94-110 dBA
  • Sirens: 110-129 dBA
  • Fireworks show: 140-160 dBA

According to Noisy Planet, if the noise causes you to yell to be able to hear yourself, the noise hurts your ears, or your ears are ringing during or after the noise exposure, chances are it is too loud[2].

Why do loud sounds cause hearing loss?

You may be aware that there are three parts to the ear: the outer (the part we can see plus the ear canal), the middle (where the three smallest bones in our body are), and the inner (where thousands of tiny hair cells live). Those little hair cells, the stereocilia, are responsible for stimulating the hearing nerve, which then tells our brains what we hear. This video from the National Institutes of Health further explains how the ear works.

When we expose the stereocilia to noise, they eventually die off. When those hair cells die off, there is nothing left to stimulate the nerve anymore. Interestingly, in the case of noise exposure, this often impacts your hearing at 4000 Hz on a hearing test first before you notice a change in the rest of your hearing.

How can we protect our hearing from loud sounds?

First and foremost, turn them down. If you cannot control the volume, remove yourself from the environment. If you must be around the sound, wear hearing protective earplugs or earmuffs. It is also helpful to have regular hearing tests to ensure that you are aware of your hearing health status. Finally, make others aware of how loud sounds are. Sure, we all like a good time, but if you are attending a loud concert, bring extra earplugs for your friends.

We at Oticon Medical encourage you to have a good time celebrating throughout the summer, but please remember to protect your hearing during this year’s fireworks shows, at concerts, and other loud events!

About the author

Alicia Wooten, Au.D. CCC-A is a Senior Auditory Technical Specialist at Oticon Medical. She specializes in implantable hearing devices and has a strong passion for supporting individuals with hearing loss.

References

[1] NIH (2018). Noise-Induced Hearing Loss. [online] NIDCD. Available at: https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/noise-induced-hearing-loss

[2] It’s a Noisy Planet. Protect Their Hearing. (n.d.). How Loud Is Too Loud? [online] Available at: https://www.noisyplanet.nidcd.nih.gov/publications/how-loud-is-too-loud#:~:text=Here%20are%20some%20rules%20of%20thumb%20to%20tell

Initial Thoughts on Ponto 5 SuperPower: Great Power and Processing

We recently spoke to a long-time Ponto™ wearer with single-sided deafness (SSD) who tried out our new Ponto 5 SuperPower. They kindly gave us permission to share their reaction, because they want to encourage others with similar hearing conditions to treat their hearing loss effectively.

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Hey there! I have had single-sided deafness for more than 20 years. I’ve struggled to hear voices on my “deaf” side and either had to ask for repetition or ask the person to move to my “good” side. Also, hearing in noisy environments is very difficult and drains me of my energy. It was a big decision to get implanted with a bone anchored hearing system (BAHS) and I inevitably waited longer than I should have to get the surgery. Overall, it was a simple procedure.

I have been wearing Ponto since the second-generation Ponto Plus was available. I have tried other products with mixed results due to poor sound quality and reliability. Next, I transitioned to a Ponto 3 SuperPower, and was really impressed with the improvement in sound quality with a more powerful device.

When Ponto 4 came out, new sound processing and Bluetooth® technologies were available with direct streaming to the device. While Ponto 4 was not a power device, these improvements were enough for me to upgrade and the sound quality from the Oticon OpenSound Navigator™ seemed to make up for the lack of overall power. There were some issues however, as the sound felt slightly flat and the streaming was a little too soft, especially when there was any sort of background noise.

I have been using the Ponto 5 Superpower since it became available, and it is so great! I now have the power and processing that makes sounds feel incredibly natural. I can tell that there is a calmness and relaxation in my body and mind when I am wearing the Ponto 5 Superpower. Hearing this naturally makes a really big difference day to day and there is a depth to the sound that I have not experienced with any previous bone conduction device.

Combine this with the amazing streaming volume, which to me sounds louder and not distorted, and I would say that this is certainly a step forward compared to any of my previous devices. I would encourage anyone wearing a BAHS to try the Ponto 5 Superpower and experience these things for themselves. It was well worth my time and effort to go through this process.

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Are you ready to upgrade to the Ponto 5 SuperPower? You can try it out before you decide! Please visit the Upgrade Your Ponto page on our website for details.

Advocate Sarah Shares Her Experience as a College Student with Hearing Loss

Sarah Sabal is a longtime Oticon Medical hearing advocate and currently a summer intern with Oticon Medical. In this blog, she shares her experiences growing up with hearing loss and how she has benefited from wearing bilateral Ponto devices, particularly when it comes to her education.

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Hello everyone! My name is Sarah Sabal, and I am a college student attending Rochester Institute of Technology, double-majoring in Marketing and Chinese Language and Culture (Mandarin) with a minor in International Business. I will be graduating in the spring of 2024.

Having been born deaf due to microtia and atresia and after spending the first seven years of my life in an orphanage in China, I am no stranger to adversity. I learned early on how to overcome challenges and never let my disability define me. Instead, it serves as a reminder that I need to work extra hard turning every challenge into an opportunity to succeed. I am a longtime Oticon Medical Ponto™ user and an advocate who wears a Ponto 5 Mini, which has changed my life. It has helped me to experience the full soundscape, while learning Chinese, and communicate more easily with my co-workers, teachers, and friends, and better advocate for myself and other people with hearing loss.

Motivated despite challenges from an early age

Back in the orphanage in China, I had no family, education, or hope. When a family in the United States chose to adopt me, I knew my life was about to change and that I would have to work extra hard to make up for the lost time.

As an adoptee from China, I always wanted to learn the Chinese language. When I came to America at seven, I was deaf and could speak only a small amount of the Sichuan dialect. My greatest personal challenge has been overcoming my deafness and proving that I can achieve my goals through hard work, determination, and never making excuses.

After I had minimally invasive Ponto surgery (MIPS) and got my first Ponto bone conduction hearing devices, I remember hearing the birds for the very first time. New to hearing and speaking, I worked tirelessly to ensure I was always prepared for class. I focused on becoming proficient in English. Over the years, I also taught myself Mandarin so that I could communicate with the exchange students my family hosted from China. I became regularly active in my high school and served as an advocate for the Deaf and hard of hearing (HoH) community. I also participated in various extracurricular activities. I achieved a 4.2 GPA, was a member of the National Honor Society and National Art Honor Society, played the oboe in my high school band, and ran varsity track and cross-country.

My interest in the Chinese language prompted me to pursue an undergraduate degree at RIT. This distinctive degree program pairs a proficiency in the Chinese language and culture with a technical or professional discipline, such as engineering, business, and health sciences. I take every opportunity both in and outside the classroom to immerse myself in language, culture, and traditions.

I was awarded the Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) in 2021 through the Department of State, where I studied Mandarin this past summer at the National Cheng Kung University (NCKU) in Taiwan. Due to Covid-19 restrictions, the program was taught virtually but allowed me the opportunity to travel to South Korea independently for an immersive experience and to learn about another culture. I was selected as a 2021 Boren Scholar to study Mandarin in Taiwan this upcoming fall 2022 for a semester. I have been accepted into National Cheng Kung University (NCKU) to advance my Chinese proficiency and study Business in Chinese.

Since getting my Ponto 5 Mini, I have had the opportunity to study abroad in a different environment constantly using Chinese, which is a difficult language to learn. It is a very tonal language that involves hearing different pitches and attention to detailed minor sound changes.

Using Ponto 5 Mini in a classroom environment

My college class schedule gives me the flexibility to study, work part-time, socialize, and rest in my free time. My class range in size from 14 to 200 students. Learning in a large setting with many students and one professor can make it challenging to hear because it is often noisy. During lecture sessions, I take advantage of RIT’s services through the National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID) program, allowing me to have captioning, note-taking, and extended test time. In addition, I use Oticon Medical’s advanced wireless technology, EduMic™, which allows me to hear my professor’s voice directly through my Ponto 5 Mini.

After classes, I usually go to a study room on campus to do my work online. When I have Zoom meetings or video lectures, I use the ConnectClip™ that automatically syncs through Bluetooth® to my laptop. I love using my ConnectClip because it provides a clear, crisp sound that goes directly into my Ponto without an interim accessory and does not have to disturb anyone else in a quiet study room. I am grateful for Oticon Medical and RIT’s services for helping Deaf or hard of hearing students, which have allowed me to reach my full potential and succeed in all my classes.

Social life made easier with Ponto

During my free time, I often get together with my friends, which is the best part of my college life experience. We usually go out for dinner and go on adventures creating quality memories that I will cherish for the rest of my life. When I am with my friends, in clubs, or attending any social events, struggling to communicate, or straining to hear what they say in a loud, crowded environment has not been an issue. My Ponto 5 Mini has a built-in setting that automatically reduces or softens background noise to help me listen to the person talking directly to me. The OpenSound Navigator™ feature creates a 360 degrees soundscape, allowing me to hear sounds coming from all around me.

Facing life’s challenges

In life, there will always be challenges trying to knock you down. Although I am doing very well at RIT with my Ponto 5 Mini processors, there have been some personal and technical challenges. A few ignorant people who don’t understand hearing loss have silently judged me for needing an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter, talking slowly, or they assume that I might be stupid. To combat these personal challenges, I try not to let them affect me and continue to show everyone who I am and that I’m not afraid that I am different. Often, these ignorant people lack education and understanding that hearing loss does not affect an individual’s other capabilities, or they are just narrow-minded and unwilling to accept differences.

I have also had some technical challenges, such as needing more batteries or a check-up for my Ponto 5 processors to ensure they continue functioning normally. The most fortunate part of RIT is that they have  a free, on-campus audiology center where I can make an appointment for any hearing-related issues. I am grateful to my school offers this, as most universities do not.

Becoming a hearing advocate for myself and others

Before coming to RIT, I used to be self-conscious because I didn’t want to stand out from my hearing peers. I used to wear my hair over my devices and not let others see that I was wearing my Ponto processors. That all changed when I realized coming into college, most people were very welcoming and accepting of diversity and part of an inclusive community. At RIT, we have approximately 12,000 students with hearing loss creating a unique, mixed community between hearing and Deaf/HoH students interacting together. I am not afraid to explain to other students what my processor are and how they help me hear. Most of my friends, classmates, professors, and other faculty staff find it very interesting and are amazed to learn how I hear through vibration with my Ponto 5 Mini yet can live the life I want as a college student. I am proud of my identity, where I come from, and how I got to RIT, accomplishing all my endeavors.

I have always overcome any adversity that blocked my path to success. When challenges arise, I self-advocate by communicating with others to help them understand my situation and ask for the help I need instead of struggling. It took me a long time to learn to advocate for myself because, growing up from elementary to early high school, my mother always fought for me to ensure I had the right resources. But now, as a college student, I stand my ground to ensure I don’t get taken advantage of due to my hearing loss. My mother is still my biggest supporter and is proud of me for overcoming my hardships though!

I am now excelling in college with a 3.58 GPA and currently participate in different clubs and sports activities. I was part of the RIT NCAA Division III Women’s varsity cross-country and track; I am a member of Asian Cultural Society and Society for Asian Scientists and Engineers (SASE). During my college years, I have taken three part-time on-campus jobs as a Chinese note-taker for Deaf or HoH students, a virtual teacher’s assistant in Chinese cultural research, and a Chinese tutor. I believe everyone has a voice and that their values matter despite their hearing loss or other challenges, and that like me, everyone deserves an equal chance of success.