William Sears along with his family have been involved with the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association (CHHA-NL) since he was a child. They were a part of our Families Group (formally known as Parents Group) and William came to volunteer here when he was a high school student. He also worked with CHHA-NL as a summer student for two summers.
William is now 20 years old and currently in his 3rd year of studies at Memorial University. He is working towards a BA with a major in history. In terms of his future career, William is leaning towards teaching or a position in research. Staff at CHHA-NL refer to William as a patient, hardworking and respectful young man.
William was only 7 months old when he was diagnosed with profound hearing loss in both ears. The cause of his hearing loss is unknown. At 11 months old he was fitted with hearing aids and has been using them ever since. When William turned 5 years old he started using an FM system which allowed him to understand speech in noisy environments.
William’s FM system works wirelessly (almost like a personal mini radio station) with his hearing aids. The person speaking wears a small transmitter and microphone that can be pinned to a lapel or attached to a headset. The FM system then sends speech signals to William through his hearing aid, which is programmed to maximize the clarity or intelligibility of what he hears. It also blocks out most of the background noise, and allows him to control the volume and hear like he is within a few feet of the speaker, regardless of how far away he is listening.
While attending high school, William had the support of an itinerant teacher for the Deaf and hard of hearing, who ensured he had appropriate and adequate support services. His itinerant teacher would usually meet with his teachers before school began and explain his listening needs and how the FM system worked. In the classroom the only accommodation William requires is an FM system and for subtitles on videos to be turned on, if they are available.
Even with the support of an itinerant teacher, William still faced having to approach new teachers to wear the FM system. This was a difficult situation that made him feel nervous. “The most challenging thing was going up to new teachers and substitutes and asking them to wear the FM system.”
Each year, in order to prepare himself for university at MUN, William meets with people at the Blundon Center along with Jack Jardine, who assists with accommodation for hard of hearing students at MUN. About a week before the start of every semester he sends an email to the Blundon Center to ask them to contact his professors, to let them know that he will need them to wear an FM system. When classes begin, he has become accustomed to approaching the professors and introducing himself. He then explains that he needs them to wear an FM system due to his hearing loss.
William was recently informed that his need to listen through an FM system would not be accommodated for a course at MUN. William has had to advocate for his accommodation needs for this class, to date, without a successful result. When asked how he felt about this he says he was “surprised and upset” because he has never had an issue with an instructor wearing an FM before and he feels that this situation never should have happened. William is currently taking a different course as this was the only alternative open to him.
When it comes to giving advice to students entering MUN, he suggests meeting with representatives from the Blundon Center and Jack Jardine before the semester begins. He also advises students not to worry about having professors wear the FM system because most of them are very supportive and won’t have a problem wearing it.
We really enjoyed having William work here at CHHA-NL and missed having him here this summer as he is a joy to work with. He is hardworking and accomplished a lot each summer. We are very proud of William and wish him every success in his future endeavors.