While in third grade, I had my hearing screened for the first time. The person running the test thought I was being “difficult” or “defiant” because I was not raising my hand when the “beeps” indicating tones were playing. I was not difficult or defiant… it was simply that I just didn’t hear them! That screening prompted my parents to take me for my first full diagnostic hearing test.
The diagnostic test led my parents to purchase one behind-the-ear hearing aid for my left ear. I wore it for a while, until my teacher would draw attention to the fact that I had it. He’d say, “Take your hearing aid off for recess, Mandi,” in front of the whole class. It felt like everyone was staring at me. One day, out of embarrassment, I took it off and never wore it again.
By the time I hit high school I was average in most classes, though I excelled in math and enjoyed cheerleading, both of which gave me a great boost of confidence. I was able to hear my teachers fairly well, mostly because I sat in seats closer to the front of the room, where I could hear better. But people started whispering that I was, well… not so smart. Apparently, they’d call my name from somewhere behind me, and I wouldn’t hear them. Or I’d just smile when people were talking to me. I wasn’t
ditzy” or ignoring anyone… I just didn’t hear them.
When it came time for college, I enrolled at West Chester University in Pennsylvania to pursue a liberal arts degree. But by the time I was a sophomore my hearing loss was really starting to take its toll. I took control of the problem and got tested again. That resulted in my parents taking me to get my first in-the-ear hearing aid the summer before my junior year. This time, I never took it off.
That first “real” hearing aid was an in the ear, full shell model, and I was proud to wear it. That hearing aid gave me confidence, and when being fitted for it, I took close notice of the person who made the adjustments for me, an Audiologist named Debbie. I wondered about her job, and how great it must be to give people the gift of hearing every day.
After college I went on a job interview in Philadelphia. Following the interview, I went to the parking garage where I’d left my car, and had to wait for an attendant to bring it up. That gave me time to strike up a conversation with a young man whose two-year old son had recently been diagnosed with bilateral sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL). SNHL accounts for about 90 percent of reported hearing loss.
He was so open, asking about my hearing aid, hearing loss, and my life’s accomplishments. We talked for 20 minutes and exchanged phone numbers. Just before our cars were brought to us I told him to not be scared, and that his mission should be to get his son whatever he needs to hear better. We communicated for a short time after that, but, ultimately, lost touch.
About a year later, while working at The Office Center at Sears selling computers, cell phones, and digital electronics, a young man with a small child called my name, and started talking to me as if I knew him. He said he couldn’t believe he ran into me, and began talking a mile a minute. I began to remember that this was the man from the garage last summer.
He told me how incredible my advice was to get his son hearing aids, and he wanted me to meet his wife. They both thanked me and told me about their son and his accomplishments – his speech, and language development – all since he’d been fit with two hearing aids.
That wonderful meeting stayed with me, and I came to realize it was an act of fate. It inspired me, and made me turn to my co-workers and say, “I’m in the wrong business.”
Spurred to action, I began researching the profession of hearing aid dispensing. Newly married, my husband, Larry, and I decided to move to Colorado, where I enrolled at Metropolitan State University of Denver. I signed up for undergraduate Audiology courses.
Instead of focusing on a career in hearing aid dispensing, I decided further my studies to enter the field of Audiology. I thought, ‘If I’m going to enter this field, I’m going to learn everything I can.’ I enjoyed classes so much, especially with help from my first audiology professor, Dr. Jean Lundy. So many years later Jean is still a great friend, and I regularly welcome her students to observe my practice.