When lived experience leads to compassion and professional calling

“Audiology has given me an opportunity to open doors and conversations about accommodations and types of communication,” explained Alexis Nye, who was fitted with her first cochlear implant when she was just two years old. But it’s been Alexis’ lived experience that has given her unstinting compassion and the professional calling to help others faced with the challenges of hearing loss.

Alexis Nye working in her officeNow an audiology doctoral student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine, Alexis is currently doing her clinical rotation. Her decision to pursue a career in audiology came early, at 16, when she was working at Lions Bear Lake Camp in Lapeer, Michigan, for children with partial or total hearing loss. It was at about that time that Alexis got her second cochlear implant. She was born profoundly deaf in both ears.

For Alexis, her calling to audiology is about improving quality of life and providing confidence. “Being an audiologist with two cochlear implants will allow me to be an encouraging voice and an example,” Alexis said. “I’ll be in a position to credibly guide anxious parents and adults along their own journey, and support them as they navigate life.”

According to Alexis — who’s been a volunteer coordinator for North Carolina’s Walk4Hearing for the last four years — HLAA has enabled her to connect with others who also face hearing challenges, share stories, and create lifelong friendships.”

For Nicole Genser, HLAA provides an outlet where her personal and professional life can intersect and soar, she said. Nicole Genser wearing walk for hearing shirtNicole has had bilateral severe-to-profound hearing loss since birth. And like Alexis, she’s putting that lived experience to work.

Now a clinical audiology doctoral student at Montclair State University in New Jersey, Nicole wants to work with children and adolescents. She’s particularly concerned about the psychosocial impacts of hearing loss, and has a keen interest in ensuring that people with hearing loss have access to language and education.

Introduced to HLAA as an undergraduate at Iona College in New York, Nicole believes that her involvement with the organization opens the door to experiences that will provide her with even greater insights as an audiologist and enrich her practice.

Sharing stories and getting to know others through HLAA has made me feel part of something greater. It’s an amazingly supportive community.

Nicole’s been involved with HLAA as a volunteer, has attended multiple Walk4Hearing events, and even worked as an HLAA community outreach intern.

An audiologist for 14 years now, Dr. Kristen Kramer was born with bilateral hearing loss and has worn hearing aids since she was three years old. “I’m lucky that I love what I do,” she said. “My personal experience provides me with first-hand insight and a unique perspective on the needs of my patients with hearing loss.”

Dr. Kristen Kramer wearing a maskDr. Kramer — who practices at South City Hearing & Audiology in St. Louis — also is a professional advisor for the HLAA Greater St. Louis Chapter. She explained, “HLAA provides the kind of peer support that I always wanted when I was growing up but didn’t know where to find it. In my practice, I’ve come to realize that I only have so much time during patient appointments. We can’t discuss everything that I’d like to — but HLAA is a great community of people who can supplement guidance from an audiologist.”

As demonstrated by these three determined women, sometimes it’s life’s challenges that give us direction — and ultimately, bring us a sense of belonging.