Michelle Hu with family

Michelle’s Story

I self-identify as….

Hard of hearing

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

I’m a new mom, my kids are 2.5 and 1 years old. They are hilarious to be around. They keep me pretty busy right now, but I’ve created a new Instagram account, @Mama.Hu.Hears where I share personal experiences and tips/tricks I’ve learned a long the way for how I live my life with hearing loss. I’ve been cooking a lot more at home, experimenting with recipes and this past summer I took up gardening.

Please tell us about your earliest years of life related to your hearing, identification etc.

I was 3 or 4 years old. My preschool teacher told my mom that I would go off on my own during story time. She recommended me to get a hearing test. I had mild hearing loss at that point but it worsened every few years due to Pendred/EVAS. My pediatric audiologist was Dr. Carol Flexer – she helped guide my mama to do what was best for our family. My family chose to continue spoken language since this is what we were already doing.

Please share about your relationship with your family and inclusion tips that you have found helpful.

We watch movies, always with subtitles or captions, my mom uses them even if I’m not around, we travel, play board games, talk/hang out etc. It was funny because my brother is super soft spoken – they joke that he was the one who appeared to have hearing loss when we were young. I was the super chatty and more interactive of the two. With my daughter I’ve told her about my special ears. That they don’t work as well as hers so sometimes I need for her to be louder, listen for me, say it again, or to point to what she’s trying to say. I use the MiniMic in the car with her (clipped near her not on her).

Please share a little about your education placement & extracurricular activities as a youth.

I was mainstreamed in school. I used FM systems, CART providers, notetakers, etc. Our school district was great, they tried to be as prepared as possible and worked together with my mom and audiologist. I was involved with the Yearbook Staff and Tennis Team. It was hard to hear the score in tennis so I had to pay close attention. I don’t remember knowing or learning about what accommodations were available for me in this area. I did not become fully confident with advocating for myself until college/grad school but my positive personality never shrunk back. It simply was that I just didn’t know what other options were available. Most of the time I would just ask people to speak louder or for repetition/clarification.

Please tell us about your relationships with DHH peers as a youth and how they impacted your life.

I only knew 1-2 other peers with hearing loss. One who was my role model growing up. She got a CI early on but my parents weren’t ready for the technology yet. I would see her every couple of months – we became family friends

Please share how you/your parents prepared for a new school year and any Tips for Teachers that worked for you.

Before the start of each school year my mom would schedule an audiology appointment to make sure my hearing was stable and to check my hearing aids/programming. She would also send my FM system in for check/repair if anything was needed. She spoke to all of my teachers before classes would start to make sure they knew about my hearing loss and had what they needed to help provide me with support in the classroom. I remember once in 2nd grade having a show and tell about my hearing aids, why I needed them and that I couldn’t hear as well.

Did you attend your IEP meetings? What memories do you have of your IEP, goals and services?

Yes – I believe 2nd or 3rd grade? I dont remember what was said there! I was provided FM systems at school and I think note takers but often I would work so hard in the classroom my notes were better than my peers so I didn’t want theirs (oops!). I wanted to do my best so my ears were on and my eyes glued to the teacher’s lips!

What type of technology, apps or products for Deaf and Hard of Hearing individuals do you use?

I have Cochlear N7 processors so my phone connects to them via Bluetooth technology.. I also use a MiniMic2+ when needed. I have a bed shaker hooked up to my baby monitor and a visual fire alarm! I use the MiniMic2+ at work, they installed a visual fire alarm and a co-worker is “assigned” to check in with me get me in case there is a fire and I don’t hear/see what’s going on. I’ve posted about the baby monitor set up on my IG! 🙂

Can you tell us a little about your college experience and how did you prepare for college? Any tips?

I went to a private college in Ohio – I had CART providers, FM systems and extra time for testing if needed. Professors tried to provide closed caption videos when possible but this was early stages of having this available. I did not know anyone else who was DHH in my school. It was difficult! At the time I also learned how to pretend. I would nod or smile even if I didn’t know what was said, I would laugh at opportune times, chime in in agreement with others, etc. I was really good at getting by under the radar and I didn’t always want to draw attention to myself. Something amazing was being able to with the state Bureau of Vocational Rehabilitation to get support, guidance and funds for equipment or assistive devices.

Please share a little about your career and any tips for someone considering a similar career?

I am a pediatric audiologist! I’ve been practicing in San Diego for over 11 years now. My experience definitely allows me to relate to patients, especially teens or young adults who might not yet know how to express their feelings and thoughts regarding their hearing loss. It’s been an honor and blessing to be able to be a light of hope for parents – they see me as living proof that their child(ren) will be okay. I use the MiniMi2+ at work, I have others help me troubleshoot/listen to hearing aids/devices if I cannot.

Please tell us about your relationships with DHH peers as an adult. When meeting a new person what script have you found helpful when telling them that you are DHH?

So because I became an audiologist I feel like I never got a chance to really make friends in the DHH community because I was their doctor! Now with my new social media I’m finally feeling like I have a tribe and people to relate to that I and I don’t have to keep them at arms length! It depends on the situation, but usually first time I miss something (and I’m aware of it) I let them know that I have hearing loss and that what they have to say is important to me. I say “What you have to say is important to me, what would help me to hear you better is….” or if my hair is up I lean towards them with my better ear and they see my CI processor.

What were some of strategies that your parents, teachers or DHH role models taught you that helped you to be a confident independent person?

I did a few leadership workshops several year ago that really helped show me the stories I was making up about myself/hearing loss/life in general. Through this I was able to release grudges/stories and approach life with a positive mindset. My parents never treated me any differently than my brother – same expectations of obtaining good grades, being good people and being polite. So I worked hard, I didn’t let much affect me and just wanted to be happy. My parents always encouraged me and never drew attention to me in a negative way. I had a show and tell with my hearing aids. I really feel like they let me take ownership of my devices which made a huge difference.

Most DHH children are born to hearing parents. This question may help parents see the world through their child’s eyes. Please tell us about your day to day life experiences as a DHH adult.

We are different but you could say that about anyone. Everyone is unique but everyone is also the same at the core. All the little details are what makes us special. I GET to live life with hearing loss -I GET to figure out what works for me. I could choose to suffer or I could choose to figure out how to have fun with life. I love to find silver linings!

Michelle Hu with family

What accomplishments are you most proud of in your life?

The communication and relationships I have with my husband and our two daughters!

What tips and strategies do you have for communicating with a DHH person?

I meet them where they are at. I put myself in their shoes and see how I can communicate with them – what makes sense for them and show them what’s going on in a way that they would be more than happy to meet in the middle.

Favorite quote? Final comments?

What would you attempt to do if you knew you could NOT fail!?

Let’s go out with a bang! Complete this sentence to debunk a misconception about Deaf or Hard of Hearing people. “People may be surprised to know that I…..”

used to sing in my school choir, that I’m a culinary school graduate (after I became an audiologist)