The hearing healthcare landscape has changed significantly over the years. I was born in the 70s when newborn screenings didn’t exist.

Luckily for me, the doctors knew I had hearing loss at birth and were able to catch it. My ear canals were extra small, and they could actually see something was not right.

Being the 70s, however, they waited until I was a toddler to do something about it.  My mom often tells me stories of how I would cup her face right next to mine so I could “see” her talk.  Right from the get-go, I learned to read lips and that was my coping strategy.

Looking back, I’m certain that has influenced my personality type… I love my one-on-one friend time… that personal connection resonates well with me.  Throughout my entire childhood, I wore a hearing aid. I never went without it.

My doctors wanted me to go to the School for the deaf, but my mother wanted me home and mainstreamed.   My mother was a huge advocate for helping me progress in school. She spent a lot of time getting me the necessary speech services I needed, ensuring I was in the right classes for the right reason, and more.

During my upbringing, I learned how to be open to others about my hearing loss. I learned not to be embarrassed or ashamed. It’s part of what makes me, me.  Everyone has something… and I was hard of hearing.

When I went to college, vocational rehabilitation helped me with my very first SET of hearing aids with an FM system.  Growing up with only one hearing aid, it was such a game-changer to get 2 programmable hearing aids with assistive listening devices.

I was empowered!  

I learned and heard like never before! I knew early on I wanted to work with other Deaf/hard of hearing individuals. The options were endless. Math teacher? Speech pathologist? Who knows what I could do!

One of the most significant times in my life was when I worked at the Greensboro School for the Deaf while I was in college. I spent a lot of time bonding with the kids. Some signed ASL, some were hard of hearing and used total communication, and some even had a cochlear implant.

From that experience, I understood why the Deaf Culture was so important to some.  I understood why total communication or oral was important to others; I absolutely loved all the options that was made available.

It wasn’t until later in college that I decided to be an Audiologist.  I enjoyed learning about the importance of the special testing we do, how we can interpret the information and why we hear the way we do.

Being able to offer tons of technology options for those that were interested was wonderful. Choices. That’s what life is … having choices, making choices that are right for you.

Hearing loss can often be very isolating and challenging for the individual.  Partnering with others that can be your advocate and help you navigate through life with these challenges is not so isolating.

I love being that advocate for so many of my patients.   

What’s changed in the last decade is having a better understanding on the connection hearing has on the brain.  Especially for those that speak, rather than sign.   So now, I ensure I wear my hearing aids during all waking hours.  The studies show it helps with brain function and memory.  It’s brain training!

While I had a positive experience with my own hearing loss and because of it, I’ve been able to make a positive career through it, I do realize others are impacted differently.

That’s why it’s so important to me to raise awareness for the importance of your hearing healthcare and do all I can to help our communities to regularly test their hearing.

If you have a question or need any help, then we’re here to help.

Do you know somebody that needs to see this? Why not share it?

Dr. Shannon Frymark Au.D., CCC-A

Shannon Frymark, Au.D., CCC-A, audiologist, received her doctor of audiology degree from the School of Audiology at the Pennsylvania College of Optometry and her master’s degree from the University of North Carolina, Greensboro. She is licensed by the state of North Carolina, earned her certificate of clinical competency (CCC-A) from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, is a fellow of the American Academy of Audiology, and is a member of the North Carolina Speech, Hearing & Language Association as well as the Hearing Loss Association of America.