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Speaking up about thriving with hearing loss

Anne Cravillion hopes to use her experience with hearing impairment to help people newly diagnosed with hearing loss.

Anne Cravillion of Marshfield wants to show the world she cannot only survive, but thrive with a hearing impairment.

Besides working full-time in Marshfield Clinic’s Travel Department, Cravillion is taking steps to become an advocate for people with hearing impairments and hopes to earn a bachelor’s degree in business.

I’m finally pursuing my dreams,” she said.

That wasn’t always the case. Cravillion, who has worn hearing aids since she was 8, spent years trying to hide her genetic hearing impairment.

Now, with confidence and support from health care providers and colleagues, “I have a chance,” she said.

Help from hearing aids

Hearing loss can range from mild to complete deafness, said Debbie Grall, a Marshfield Clinic audiologist.

“If there is enough damage to the ear, it can cause distortion,” Grall said.

Some digital hearing aids can move sounds to areas of the ear where there is better nerve function. Audiologists then have to adjust hearing aids to give patients the best possible sound quality. The adjustment process can take three months or longer as people relearn how to hear.

Despite advances in technology, people who wear hearing aids often experience distortion with certain sounds and hear loud sounds louder than people with normal hearing. Getting used to hearing differently, and hearing in general can be exhausting, Cravillion said.

“It’s a whole different way of hearing,” she said. “My brain had to get used to the new hearing aids. I almost gave up on them, but I’m glad I stuck it out.”

Now she hears sounds she never could before, like her children’s cats meowing on the other side of the door.

Advocating for success

Getting new hearing aids has been only one piece of the puzzle in learning to thrive with a hearing impairment.

Cravillion has had to learn to advocate for herself over time. That includes overcoming embarrassment about hearing loss, speaking up when she missed part of a conversation and taking classes toward her business degree this summer.

“I’m confident in who I am and I know I have much to offer, hearing impairment or not,” she said. “I’m determined to do something meaningful, wherever life takes me.”

Despite what she’s accomplished, Cravillion is most proud of raising a confident, successful daughter who also is hearing impaired.

“Being hearing impaired is part of who she is and she doesn’t hide it,” Cravillion said. “In school, she would tell her teachers where she should sit and how they could help her.”

Passion for helping others

Learning your child has a hearing impairment can be devastating and lonely. Cravillion wants to make the transition easier by providing support and assistance to families of children recently diagnosed with a hearing impairment at Marshfield Clinic.

Besides providing reassurance, she can help parents learn how to advocate for their children in school and introduce them to other families with children who are hearing impaired.

“It helps to know you’re not alone,” she said.

Growing support

Support for people with hearing loss is better now, Cravillion said, reflecting on her experiences as a child.

“I didn’t have any support in school as a kid,” she said. “When my daughter entered kindergarten, her school got a deaf and hard-of-hearing program.”

Now a college student, Cravillion’s daughter has access to real-time captioning in class, captioned videos, note takers and lecture transcripts.

Assistance for Cravillion has improved, too. Marshfield Clinic Information Services set her up with a hands-free Bluetooth system to make telephone communication easier. When she receives a call, she pushes a button to connect the call to her hearing aids.

There still is room to improve services for the hearing impaired, though. For example, hearing aids for adults generally are not covered by health insurance. Cravillion dreams of the day when more people with hearing impairments can afford hearing aids.

Be a hearing ally

Cravillion also wishes there was more awareness about hearing loss because many people don’t know how to help someone with a hearing impairment.

She offered these tips for interacting with a friend, family member or coworker who is hearing impaired:

  • Touch her on the shoulder if she doesn’t respond to spoken attempts to get her attention.
  • Don’t cover your mouth with your hand or turn away when you speak.
  • Repeat/rephrase what you said if asked.
  • Make an effort to include her in conversations.

To those with hearing impairments, don’t be afraid to speak up and ask for help, she said.

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