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Stephanie Turcios on Growing Up with Hearing Loss

Stephanie struggled with hearing loss her whole life. Listen in as she talks about her experiences and what it took for her to learn to advocate for herself.




Stephanie Tercios on growing up with hearing loss. That's our topic today on Ask The Hearing Doctors. 



Hi, I'm Jim Cuddy, and this is Ask The Hearing Doctors. And I'm joined today by Dr. Wendy Thorne, doctor of audiology with Hearing Doctors, and also Stephanie Tercios a Patient Care Coordinator in the Rockville office of Hearing Doctors, the Washington DC area's highest-rated audiology practice with over 1500, five-star reviews. Wendy, Stephanie, great to see you both. Thanks. You too. So this is going to be a nice, interesting conversation. 


Stephanie, why don't you tell us why it is that you really wanted to be here today? Yeah, I think I wanted to, first of all, share my story to advocate for people who, um, have a hard time doing that, have a hard time telling their story, have a hard time, um, expressing themselves when it comes to their hearing health. And with that just offer a unique perspective to the hearing field in general. Yeah.


How long have you had hearing loss? All my life. Um, so I was diagnosed with hearing loss when I was about five years old. Um, but when I was a toddler, my parents noticed that I was having a hard time hearing. And they did go to a specialist, however many times we were told that it was a behavior issue. Um, and it wasn't until I started school that teachers and music teachers especially, um, referred us to audiologist. And that's when I got diagnosed. So about five years old. And then I started wearing hearing aids since then.


Is this a common thing where a misdiagnosis like that with a small child? Yeah. And I've, I've seen that a lot, you know, with the pediatrics that we see, you know, a lot of times the families come in and say, you know, you know, my, the doctor said they think it's an attention issue or whatever it may be. But the parents are usually like, I know it's something different. Um, so I'm glad that your family and your teachers seem to kind of advocate and get that diagnosis early. Cause sometimes it can take a long time for especially to diagnose at a young age. 


Do you know how it happened or was this something that you were born with or was there a traumatic event? That seems to be the mystery of my life. And, um, also the story of many people with hearing loss. So you don't really, I mean, I don't really know. Um, I know that, I mean, well, I was born in 1996 and from what I know, it wasn't mandatory to do hearing screening yet. Um, when you were initially born at the hospital. Um, so we don't know really, like if I was screened or not, so it's a mystery to me and I, so I don't know. 


Now, and of course you, you do wear hearing aids? Yes. Yeah. Okay. How, so you've been wearing those, you said from five, six years old. What, is there a type of hearing, you know, we talk about different types of hearing loss and that kind of thing. Is there, is there a name or is there, uh, for the, for the type of hearing loss that you have? Yeah, I have bilateral, so that means two ears. Um, on both ears, I have bilateral, mild to moderate hearing loss, um, sensorineural hearing loss as well. 


So sensorineural hearing loss is not caused by an ear infection or fluid in the ears, wax occlusion, anything like that. It's much deeper in the ear. So the cochlea and the nerves, that's where the hearing loss is occurring at. 


Are there studies that indicate why this occurs? Or do you have any idea why it occurs or is it just sort of one of those things that just happens? So it's very hard to, to, um, diagnose exactly what caused it, you know, especially in childhood. It can be a progressive, um, condition. It could be something she was born with. It could be, you know, sometimes the mothers that when they're pregnant have a condition that gets carried on, carried onto the child. 


And, and Stephanie, what is it like, what do you hear when you don't have your hearing aids in? What, what is the sound like for you? Okay, well. I think, first of all, I don't really know what normal hearing is. Sure. To have something to go off of, but I like to tell people that in comparison to when I have my hearing aids on and when I have them off, it kind of seems like everything is underwater, and everything's kind of dampened because I have high-frequency loss. So everything is just dimmer. And I lose all the bells and whistles of, um, I guess all the details, but I do hear things just, I just hear kind of like the outlines of things and not so much, like all the colors that someone with normal hearing might. So you potentially lose or don't have the information that's really being, being broadcast if you will. Wow. 


Um, did your hearing loss ever limit you in regards to schooling? I know you said you had the hearing aids since five or six, but were there, were there ongoing issues throughout the school years? Definitely. Um, from, you know, grade school, all the way until college, it was something where first of all, it's having hearing loss is for many people, it means something different to them. And, um, for me, it was very isolating and I had a hard time, um, telling people I had hearing loss and, and getting the help that I wanted because I was very stubborn and I wanted to do things my way and not let you know, hearing loss limit me. Um, I did get the support that I needed from teachers. My family was super supportive, but at the end of the day, with all that support, I still had to work twice as hard as most people. So in, in ways that there were limitations, but also that gave me the skill of constantly having to adapt and, and just go through hurdles and just get creative so that I can kind of be in line with other people. Sure.


Does this sound like a common occurrence amongst some of your patients that might have suffered from the same? Yeah, a lot of our younger patients, I really feel for them because it makes them, you know, work just as much, you know, harder than other classmates, especially if the teachers are not, um, educated with hearing loss as well. Um, if there's not that support it definitely makes it difficult. Um, any times we see kids, I'd always, one of the first questions I always ask is how is school going? Because if I see things are dropping, then we need to make adjustments to the hearing aids because I don't ever want anyone to fall behind. It's difficult. I can imagine. Absolutely. 


Stephanie, did your career choice have anything to do or related to your loss of hearing? 


Definitely, a hundred percent. Um, so I mean, I think like, like many people, I kind of considered many things when I went to school and initially I wanted to be a nurse, but at the end of the day, I didn't have a true, like personal connection to nursing. And I kind of just sat with the idea of like, what do I want to study? Um, that would be meaningful in my life as well as in others. And how can I contribute the most I can. And, um, at the end of the day, I wanted to learn about my own hearing loss and how I can help other people like me. And, um, um, just like I learned so much about myself, um, just within the first two years of studying, hearing and speech science in college. I learned about, um, how the laziness and the negative thoughts that I would have about myself, the self-esteem that I had all was connected to the hearing loss and that there were scientific, evidence-based, you know, like there were facts that just kind of backed me up. And I just felt like I had a reason to just keep going because all of this, it wasn't just me being lazy. It was part of the hearing loss. It was part of my exhaustion of working hard all the time. And so, yeah. 


Do you get tired? I think we've, we've touched on this. Do you, do you get tired because of the hearing loss? Every day. Hearing aids, um, yeah. Working hard, um, having that stimulation every day, it's exhausting. Is it, is it that you're just trying harder to hear or is it, is it having an overall, what's the, what's the effect? Was there a physical effect or is it, is it more of a mental effect or do you know? 


I think for me sometimes it's both, it depends on the day. Sometimes it depends on how many sources of sound are coming in. How, how much work I had to do that day, even with COVID today, like not having lips to read off of, um, just reminds me of how much I rely on them. And that first of all is just nerve-wracking. And so I'm just anxious, um, that on top of just trying to hear. Um, trying to make guesstimates kind of to try to understand what people are saying. Um, so it's a variety of other things. And I think at the end of the day, sometimes my ears do hurt and I don't want to hear anything. Yeah. 


The systemic effects of hearing loss that we've, we've touched on so many different ones, um, over the course of, of this show. And, um, gosh, to hear it coming from the mouth of somebody that's, that's actually going through this or goes through this on a daily basis, is, it kind of wakes you up a little bit more to it and, um, it makes it certainly more real. 


Now you get off of work, you head home, do you take the hearing aids off and just say, ah, it's like kind of kicking off your shoes and relaxing on the couch. I mean, is that what you do? Oh, sometimes even as soon as I get in the car. I just, I take them off or, um, it just depends on the day. And sometimes I just keep them in when I want to listen to music, because then I'm missing out on, you know, my favorite song sounds different without them on. And so it just depends on the day. Sometimes I will push myself harder than I need to. But yeah. 


Well, and the hearing aids today, you say listening to music with hearing aids, is that because they're Bluetooth and you have it coming directly to them or? That. And because hearing aids give me access to those sounds that I can't. But you wouldn't have them otherwise. Yeah. 

It's fascinating. And, and, and, and we really appreciate you coming in and telling us your story, and I certainly wish you the best moving forward. And, uh, and Wendy, thank you for your time and explanations on things, too. Yeah. 


And I would just like to say, I mean, Stephanie is such a great asset to our company. Um, she really gets to understand patients and I think they feel more comfortable being like, like somebody gets it. Like she's been through this, like its, it's, um, and I think it's also a good thing to also note that hearing loss is not because you're old. Um, there's that horrible stigma out there that I wish we’d get rid of. Um, but it's not just for somebody old, you know. People of all ages, you know, go through, this and, you know, we really, you know, understand the patients and where they're coming from. 


We don't like to be different as, as people. I think in, in general, right? I mean, we don't like to be out of the norm sometimes. And I think probably that has some effect as well. So. Thank you both for your time. Thank you. 


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