Starting College With a Cochlear Implant

by | Jan 10, 2016 | Hearing

On my first day of college at UT Austin, I was exactly as prepared as every other typical student. I had registered for classes, purchased my books, and had maybe glanced over my daily route from building to building. I had passing familiarity with the campus from orientation, and had just accepted a bid from a sorority. All that was left was the most simple, yet the most important part– go to class. The only potential problem was, I was ignoring one thing. My professors had zero indication or warning that I was a student with a cochlear implant.

I’d like to say that I took this bold step to go forward without disability accommodations. I’d like to sit here and tell you that this was a well thought out, personal decision. But the reality is, I dropped the ball. UT Austin has so many  fantastic ways to accommodate those who need a different learning environment. Had I registered and gotten a letter from the Services for Students With Disabilities, I could have handed a copy of the letter to every professor. I could have had access to a reserved front-row seat to maximize my hearing capabilities, or created opportunities for a modified testing environment (as a lip-reader who does well in normal conversation, my worst nightmare is a “listening” testing portion where I respond based on a recording). Most importantly, my professors would have known. I could have gone to office hours, gotten to know them better, and used the accommodations to move forward in class.

Looking back, after my first semester, I have few regrets. My grades turned out well. But my one word of advice to anyone entering college with a documented hearing disability, or a cochlear implant, is get registered with the school. Be proactive with it, and get the letter or information to your professor on the first day of class. You may not need accommodations a single day of the semester… or maybe a day will come where you’ll be grateful that you have that front row seat and professor’s understanding. Either way, it will serve you well.

On the first day of college, I felt like any other student. I was overwhelmed by the crowds of people, impressed by the size of my lecture halls (a 500 person class??), and I felt more independent than I’d ever been. However, in an environment where most people don’t know what a cochlear implant is, it was easy to forget I had one. Yes, I was independent, and yes, I felt like a new person. But what if I had sprung for the letter, or taken extra time to request a flashing fire alarm light in my dorm? No one else in my dorm sleeps completely deaf– why not request one? All these accommodations would have done is increase my safety and learning capabilities in a new school. Looking back on my semester, that’s the one thing I’d change.