Heading off to college can be incredibly exciting. As probably many of your older neighbors and family friends have told you, it’s bound to be a thrilling and invigorating time in your life. But, like many big life changes, there are a lot of unknowns that make it exciting in a terrifying way. Sort of that same feeling you experience when waiting in line for a roller coaster.
Everyone beginning college this fall has a huge shopping list and an even bigger list of ‘what ifs?’ as they get ready to take this huge leap. And, if hearing loss is something that you live with, you’ll have a few extra items to check off your list to ensure you’re fully prepared to have a successful start to your college career.
See if there’s a support group on campus
You might be the first you that goes to college with hearing loss, but you certainly won’t be the only student on campus with hearing loss. Do a little sleuthing to find out beforehand if there’s a support group or club for students with hearing loss. Here, you can source the group for tips and tricks that helped them adjust to college life. You’ll also establish a support network for yourself if you ever become overwhelmed. Which you will, at some point, which is completely natural for big transitions. Having a few friends who’ve gone through your similar experience can help you identify and overcome certain obstacles. They’ll also be there to pick you back up when something unexpected knocks you down.
Joining a club or organization is a great way to meet people and explore new interests, so make sure you survey even more options once you’ve landed.
Become your own advocate
Your parents have likely been your biggest education and health advocates. Tell Mom and Dad they don’t have to make a quick exit, but instead, that you’ll want to be more front and center in exploring and solving your hearing needs. There’s a lot that a parental phone call can accomplish, but taking the reins in your life is sort of the most important college class that you don’t “officially” take. It’s right up there with Laundry 101!
And here’s another great lesson that’ll come in handy in many of your classes: do some homework. Sit your parents down and ask them about their experiences advocating for you in the classroom. What worked? What didn’t?
Stock up on supplies
Many accommodations for your hearing loss are legally required by the Americans with Disabilities Act. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t arm yourself with what you know makes you most prepared to communicate. You know your own degree of difficulty with communicating, so take note and pack the necessary notepads, assistive listening devices, iPads, translators, chargers, and hearing aids that will make this transition less stressful for you.
Beyond communication, take stock of what necessities you take for granted at home. Is waking up in the morning a problem? Purchasing or packing a vibrating alarm clock might save you from a bunch of missed early classes. If you’re in a dorm room or new group housing situation, consult with your roommates about what the emergency drill will look like. Is an emergency alert system for the hearing impaired available to you?
Introduce yourself and your hearing loss
You may find disclosing your disability pretty easy at this point. But then again, maybe you don’t, and this will be yet another new behavior for you to grow comfortable with. College students that initially disclose their disability have a higher success rate than those who wait, according to a study from the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.
You’ll also want to schedule some time to introduce yourself to your professors and disclose your hearing loss. It’s easier to talk out successful strategies with them than to try and figure out the magic equation all by yourself. Plus, these are those same folks you’re going to be requesting Letters of Recommendation from at some point. Establishing good, honest working relationships with faculty will only assist you in the rest of your career.
Try not to let your hearing loss prevent you from wholly diving into this really magical stage of your life. It’s a time of discovery and learning and having new experiences. It’s also a time where you are exposed to people from different places and different backgrounds, all living or studying in fairly close quarters with one another. One surprising perk of college life is getting to know the individual obstacles each and every person brings to their own experience.
Visit us at Greentree Hearing and Audiology before you head to campus! We provide comprehensive hearing health services and tune-ups and repairs for your devices.