All About Supporting Parents – Episode 70 with Dr. Michelle Hu
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“We really wanted to set this program up so that parents can take care of themselves, feel confident and know that you still get to make whatever choices that are best for you and your family. It’s not the doctors telling you what to do. I’m giving you all of the knowledge, resources, so that you can find what best fits your family and your child’s personality so that they can thrive….” – Michelle Hu
As a young child, Dr. Michelle Hu was diagnosed with Pendred Syndrome. By the time that she was 10 years old, she was audiologically deemed a cochlear implant candidate. Currently, she is a pediatric audiologist, a cochlear implant user and a mom of two. Dr. Michelle is the creator of the Mama.Hu.Hears account on Instagram, and a parent program launching soon.
This week on the All About Audiology podcast:
3:00 – Dr. Michelle’s story
Since Dr. Michelle’s husband’s test results for determining whether he carried a recessive gene of Pendred syndrome came back negative, all of her children are not at risk to be diagnosed with such a condition. Some may find it important to do DNA testing to gauge how genes may affect one’s offspring.
9:45 – Becoming a cochlear implant candidate
While being in a hearing booth, just initially for educational purposes, Dr. Michelle realized the impact that technology can play in helping her to hear better. This made her realize that: professionals need to honor the patient side of themselves and need to take care of themselves first so that they have enough energy to then help their patients.
16:45 – Dr. Michelle’s Instagram page
Many of her patients were asking her a lot of questions, and she wanted a place to share all of her information. Thus, she created @mama.hu.hears. Individuals can use social media for networking purposes and to share their expertises.
30:45 – Dr. Michelle shares a story from her practice
She once saw a teenage patient who did not want to continue using her cochlear implants and found it hard to connect to the perspective of this patients’ mother. Professionals can provide their best practice, but ultimately patients need to do what is best for their own selves.
35:00 – Dr. Michelle’s Accommodations
Before becoming a pediatric audiologist, Michelle went to culinary school. She advocated for herself to get accommodations throughout the course.. Students should not feel uncomfortable to request accommodations but need to make sure that such requests are in their best interest.
To support the All About Audiology podcast, visit our Patreon website here: https://www.patreon.com/allaboutaudiology
Email Dr. Michelle at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Listen Next/Related Episodes
Episode 25: Do Cochlear Implants Work? with Dr. Lindsay Cockburn
Episode 26: All About You with Samantha McKinney
Episode 60: All About Online Safety with Lisa Honold
Episode 63: All About Educational & Informational Audiological Counseling with Dr. Sarah Sparks
Episode 71: All About Universal Design and Disability Advocacy – Episode 71 with Becky Hales
Dr. Lilach Saperstein: “Welcome back to the All About Audiology podcast. I’m your host, Dr. Lilach Saperstein. And on this show, we talk about real life stories of the impact of audiology in your life. Why does it matter? Besides for all the jargon and medical terms, what is it actually like? And today, we have a very special guest that I’m so excited. Our guest today is Dr. Michelle Hu, on Instagram, @mama.hu.hears. I talk about your account all the time. I love your infographics and I love your cooking videos and seeing kids and how you’re raising them and all the exciting things. Dr. Michelle is a pediatric audiologist, a cochlear implant user and a mom of two. And I’m so excited to welcome you to the show.”
Dr. Michelle Hu: “Thank you so much for having me. I feel like I’ve known you since I created my Instagram. I’ve been following you. I feel like we have similar journeys as mothers. I’m soon to be a mom of three, actually, I haven’t released that yet. But why not? Here we go. I am pregnant with a baby boy coming this fall, and I’m just excited. And I’m loving this social media connection with people all across the globe. I never would have met you hadn’t I not created that. And I feel like the professionals in audiology are really coming together, putting our heads together. Like what can we do to make a difference? How can we reach more people? And you’re halfway across the world and look at all the good news and all of the resources that you’re providing to patients and families and parents. Parents are really the guideposts for our children and if we can support them more, then the children are only going to benefit from that. So, I’m so happy to team up with you today.”
Dr. Lilach Saperstein: “I agree. When you’re in school, you kind of learn the laws of your state. And things change from state to state. And you’re very, very focused on your community, which is a good place to start. But then you also zoom out and say, wait a minute, this is happening all over the world. Like, what is the path to become an audiologist? What are the different degrees? And that’s different in different parts of the world and what care people are getting? So, yeah, it’s, it’s amazing. Instagram, I’m a fan of the community. Cause like also we know that it has also a lot of downsides that are ingrained in the whole social media experience, but I think you’re right. That has been an incredible small, but mighty community.”
Dr. Michelle Hu: “Small, but mighty, I love that.”
Dr. Lilach Saperstein: “Yeah. Okay. So, now let’s start at the very beginning because I think sharing the personal stories and how did you get to where you are is so, so valuable. So, give us highlights of what it was like being Michelle and then becoming a pediatric audiologist.”
Dr. Michelle Hu: “Well, I didn’t get diagnosed with hearing loss until I was three or four years old. I can’t remember. It was somewhere in Ohio somewhere. And then I think I got diagnosed. I got my first hearing aids around then. And I was just so excited to have sound. My mom always said that she had it easy because I was like, ‘Ooh, I want to wear them. I want to change the battery. I want to take care of them. I want to learn how to put them in my ears.’ What three or four year old does that? It was because I realized the value that they gave me. The sound, the access to details. I could hear birds outside the window. I could hear the garage opening when my dad was coming home. I was just really excited. Like, whoa, what is this?
And I think that mindset is really what has fueled me through life and given me access to being motivated, looking at life like, what else can I do? What else can I accomplish? What else is fun? And I think that’s kind of the personality trait that my parents always talk about. That’s what really got me through things. I never really let it get me down. I wasn’t bullied that much because I carried myself well, because this is what’s so. I didn’t really play victim to those circumstances. I credit my parents or they would say personality, but it was my parents that didn’t treat me any differently than my brother.”
Dr. Lilach Saperstein: “What do they say? What was their experience in learning about your diagnosis?”
Dr. Michelle Hu: “They were devastated. I recently interviewed my mom. She told me a few things that I didn’t really know, or I really didn’t understand yet. She didn’t want me to know certain things, like she thought it was her fault. Or she thought she was being punished or what did she do during pregnancy, or somewhere along the line, where did she mess up? But my diagnosis was Pendred Syndrome and enlarged vestibular aqueduct, nothing she could have done could have prevented that. Pendred syndrome is a recessive gene. When both parents carry that gene, then 25% of their children, one in four chance, have pendred or progressive hearing loss. That’s associated with it. My brother, he hasn’t been tested, but he could be a carrier or he could not have the gene at all. My husband, I asked him if he would be willing to do a saliva test, he’s negative. So, that means all of my children will be carriers. But if they want to, if they think it might affect their decision to have children or how they treat their children, if they have them, they might want to have their partner get tested for the recessive gene. And it’s just a saliva test. So, it’s nothing, you know, like a blood draw or anything like that.
Anyway, I got diagnosed when I was three or four, got hearing aids. My hearing dropped first grade, third grade, fifth grade. And then again, senior year of college, I believe, maybe once in high school. But by the time I was 10 years old, I was audiologically deemed a cochlear implant candidate, but I didn’t know this. My parents never told me. They weren’t ready for technology. They thought I was doing really well in school. And I was, but I was working really hard. The way I see it, I tell parents all the time, imagine your child is like a duck paddling across the pond. They look cool, calm and collected on the surface. But little do you know, they are paddling furiously underneath that water, just trying to look calm, cool, and collected.
So, at the end of the school day in the fall, usually when school started, I would just be exhausted because I was taking into account everything visually. What’s the teacher writing on the board? Everybody’s looking at (something). Where are they looking at? Is it somebody just making a joke in the classroom or is it something that’s important to learning? Is there’s something in the window? All of these things, including the sounds, the chairs scraping on the floor, other people’s pencils, desks opening and closing, sounds in the hallway. I was just exhausted because I had to learn where to focus my energy.
Luckily I loved learning and I liked school. I love being connected with my teachers, so I was focusing on my education, but I also, I wanted to be a part of the group conversations or part of the cool kids or paying attention to my friends. So, there was so much going on in the classroom setting. And it’s all part of your childhood. It’s part of not just school, it’s who are the friends that are going to be shaping the rest of your lives, your peers, who are the ones that are going to be affecting your thoughts, your decisions? So, it’s a lot.
And I think that my parents, because I didn’t get diagnosed until I was three or four and it was only mild hearing loss, they chose to continue with listening and spoken language. And that doesn’t mean that they just continue what they were doing. I went to therapy. I started going to therapy either once or twice a week, constantly learning different techniques and how to communicate with me, how to submerse me in sound and language. My mom was told not to speak Chinese at home to me, which I think was a bummer because I definitely am picking it up more now, but that’s just the prime window when you’re in that age to learn language. And it’s kind of weird, but I know more Spanish than Chinese now because I was schooled in Spanish. I use it on a daily basis in the clinic. I’m in Southern California, a large part of my patient population is Spanish speaking. And I would love to learn more sign language, which I’m actually learning through my kids because my kids are interested in it.
Life takes you the way it takes you. And it just goes into how much I want to support parents to be able to provide support and resources to their children so that they can really grow up knowing there’s no limits on them. Absolutely none. I tell patients all the time, it’s harder to acquire a hearing loss than to grow up with one, because we don’t know better. We just learn how to adapt with what we have, based on what we’re motivated to go get. And when an adult acquires hearing loss, it’s sometimes harder. You’ve already got a routine. You already know who you are for the most part. And it’s like, well, I’ve always done it this way. Why can’t I? And you focus on that instead of, okay, here are my circumstances. What do I want? I need to adapt. I need to figure out how can I get there from this situation, from this point of view. And it’s hard as an adult to wrap your head around that when you’ve already had so many decades of learning or figuring out what already works for you versus if you’ve only been alive for however many years, you look at life through, okay, I see that ladder. I’m going to climb that ladder. I’m going to go get the lollipops on top of the fridge, whatever it is. You’re just motivated and you don’t see failure as an option really.”
Dr. Lilach Saperstein: “I’m curious to know about your experience with your hearing changing, your hearing levels changing and you mentioned specific years. You remember those changes?”
Dr. Michelle Hu: “Oh yeah. I remember. First grade I ran into somebody on the playground and I remember having tinnitus during story time. I couldn’t hear well. I think I knew something was going on. I told my teacher, ‘my hearing aid doesn’t work’. She called my dad. He brought a new hearing aid battery, then you know that wasn’t it. I remember going to my mom’s room, ‘Mama, I can’t hear.’ Worst thing to wake up to, right? What is she going to do? Where’s she going to go? Okay. We’re going in fix it mode.
Another time I spoke back at my mom and she slapped me across the face and I don’t want her to ever feel guilty about that. And then another time, I can’t remember when I was 10, but each time I would wake up, my hearing aid wouldn’t work. My heart’s pounding, put a new battery in, figure it out, trying to just LA LA LA LA, what’s going on. And each time they would come back a little bit, but never fully. My hearing aids would get reprogrammed or they would get bigger. So, I was up to superpower hearing aids by the age of 10.
Senior year is probably the one I remember the most in depth detail. I was on my way thinking about grad school. Thinking about law school. Had a boyfriend. I had a really bad cough and I wonder if it was an immune system thing or a virus in my inner ear, or maybe I blew a fistula or something. I remember crying, thinking I’d never hear my boyfriend say, I love you to me ever again. And what do I do? I need a cochlear implant now! That urgency or desperation that you see in Sound of Metal. What’s happening? Like, I don’t know how to approach life, not being the way I’m used to. I remember seeing my parents just looking at me like hopeless because they know this is happening again. They wish they could take it for me. Senior year was the only time that with the help of intertympanic steroids that it came back a little bit.
I got a cochlear implant, my first one, three years later in grad school while I was studying for audiology. We were studying cochlear implants. And I said, ‘Hey dad, do you know about these? This can totally be an option for me.’ He goes, ‘yeah, I know about them. We weren’t ready for technology and you do so well, but if you’re interested, let’s explore and see if you’re a candidate still. You’re still under our insurance for a couple more years’. I saw a cochlear implant surgery two or three weeks before my actual part of my curriculum. Yeah, but I wouldn’t recommend seeing it that close before you do your own.”
Dr. Lilach Saperstein: “You are now the third audiologist that has been on the show that she got cochlear implants while being in grad school. I think it’s fascinating. You become a young adult, you learn a lot, and you make your own decisions.”
Dr. Michelle Hu: “So, I got mine activated by one of my classmates, one of my mentors. It was so fun because I was a student, I said, ‘Hey. Can you stick me in the booth today?’ And it was surreal. Like I was trigger happy with the response button because I had never heard the response button in my life. I hear something, I hear something. What’s happening? And it was like, oh my gosh, I hear this clicking. And, I could hear my feet shuffling on the carpet in the hallway. And I was like, oh, that’s why every single teacher, since preschool has been like Michelle, pick up your feet, because I would shuffle my feet. I don’t know if I was stimulating listening or I had always been a heavy walker, because I didn’t know how to be quiet. I didn’t have to. I could not sneak up upon anybody for the life of me.
I got my second cochlear implant out in San Diego when I was working my first pediatric audiologist job. And with the surgeon that was working with our team, she’s been absolutely fantastic. And it’s funny, because I recommend if they are a candidate for bilateral cochlear implants. I think two ears are better than one if both ears are a candidate. I waited three and a half years in between the two. And it took me a while to realize that my first CI (cochlear implant) side, actually became my stronger side and I had been leaning on my first, my good right ear for my whole life.
And I’m having a student just play around in the booth. We had extra time. It was like, well, why don’t you check my hearing? Why don’t you push all the buttons and run me through a hearing evaluation and an aided evaluation with my CI or my hearing aid. And I’m pushing this button and I’m like, now I hear everything. Oh, let me turn my CI off. And I’m looking at my audio gram with just my hearing aid on and I’m like, hello, I would recommend this for a patient. Why am I not doing it for myself? When you’re in the field, you don’t take care of yourself as well. When you’re a nurse, you’re taking care of your patients. Who pays attention to yourself, really?
And that’s when I had an epiphany, I was like, I need to be a patient. I need to honor the patient side of me. I get to be taken care of. It’s kind of hard, but take away all of the audiology knowledge I have. I know how to cheat on an audiogram. Of course. Right? I know what’s happening. Well, they mix it up for me, make sure I’m not faking, but I also need to get in the place of, I’m not doing this to do really well. I want to know where my response is, so I closed my eyes. Don’t look at her. Don’t turn around. Did I hear it or not? I’m only going to push the button and really honor where my hearing is at so that I can be a patient so that I can be as well taken care of as I take care of other people.”
Dr. Lilach Saperstein: “It’s really important. And it goes even another step further, because that was you. You were the patient and you still had to make that leap. Then, when it’s the parent coming in for their child, it’s more removed, like one more step for parents to take up the space that you deserve. You speak up at appointments, you ask questions. You research it. Don’t be like, oh, I don’t want to make trouble. And I don’t want to bother you. That’s a common thing. I heard a lot from parents that even sending an email, they apologize for sending it. No, no, no. That’s the whole point of why I’m here.”
Dr. Michelle Hu: “Help me to help you. Utilize me to the best of my ability. I mean, utilize me during office hours please, but that’s my job. I didn’t sign that oath or take that oath just to make commission or make money. For me, it’s so personal because I see who my mom was back then. And I see how I responded to having that village and having that community, especially with Dr. Flexor and all of the speech therapists that I’ve worked with. I want them to have this feeling that I get when I know I can do this. And I don’t think of whatever disability or whatever fault, first.
Don’t get me wrong. My hearing loss has absolutely shaped me into who I am today. It’s motivated me, it’s knocked me down. It’s given me power. It’s given me confidence, all of those things, because I was in the darkness and I saw the light. That’s what I was going for. And that’s why I want to help. That’s why I went into pediatrics. Number one, I get to laugh at least once a day. It’s almost guaranteed. And I get to help those little Michelle’s out there.
Dr. Lilach Saperstein: “Oh my gosh. I love it. Okay, so then, tell me a little about how did you even get into Instagram and then decide to start an account and your beautiful resources that are also now translated. I’m just tagging people all day long in your account. Like go, Michelle has a good one.”
Dr. Michelle Hu: “Thank you so much. I really appreciate it. I was on maternity leave. I was missing connecting to my patients. I had my two children back to back 16 months apart. So, I was gone a lot and I missed them. I missed knowing, like I have one patient, who’s a tennis rock star. I was like, I want to know how they’re doing every single time she would come in to see me, ‘I got a silver trophy. I got a gold trophy in this’. And I’m like, dang, it’s hard to hear the score. It’s hard to play a sport where you need to listen to some things or just pay attention.
I had been an audiologist for 10 years at that point. And my patients were going off to college, grad school. Will you write me a letter of recommendation? And then they’re having kids, (asking me), Dr. Michelle, how do you wake up at night if your kid cries, what do you do? How do you know if somebody’s ringing the doorbell? How do you know what little kids are saying? I can’t hear them. All of these things, and I never thought about it because it’s just what I did. I had my alarm clock set in place. I use speaker phone, or I use Bluetooth now with my cochlear implant processors.
What do you do? Like, huh? I should have a place to put all of this stuff. And if my patients are asking, I’m sure there’s other ones asking. The only thing that was stopping me was the name. So, I told a couple of friends and they said, we’re deciding right now, we’re picking a name. Let’s write down a whole bunch of names. Mama hu hears just stuck. And they’re like, you have no excuse now. Go do it!”
Dr. Lilach Saperstein: “It’s so clever because your last name is Hu, but it’s also a pun. If there’s a pun, I’m there.” Haha.
Dr. Michelle Hu: “So, my grandma is mama hu, so I’m mama hu now. It’s my maiden name by the way. So, I do have a married name now. If I was going through something that I didn’t know how yet, I’m figuring out where to put my feet on this journey, I would love to follow someone, watch someone and, okay, maybe Instagram is the way to go. So, I just started it. I met you, met Listen with Lindsay, met Samantha. Moms started reaching out to me. Gosh, patients started reaching out to me and were like, hello, I miss you. And it really filled my soul. It really filled my cup. I said, I’m going to do this for a year. If after a year I’m still loving this, that I feel like I’m putting good stuff out there and that it’s filling my tank, that was key. I wanted to make sure that it was filling my tank and not draining me.
And I said, okay, then maybe I’ll start to figure out what else I can do with it. I’m going to create a children’s book later this year, and I’m creating a program. That’s going to be launching this summer.
It’s for parents, with children with hearing loss, for those parents that feel anxious or doubtful, or have some fears about ‘how do I be a good parent to this child who happens to have hearing loss, who’s deaf or hard of hearing?’ ‘I don’t know how to parent this child.’ Well you know what, you do!
If anything, in the past 11 years that I’ve been a pediatric audiologist… parents, you can do this because it’s just one special thing about them. They get to see life through a different lens that you might not have experienced. So, I created this program: “My child has hearing loss. Now what?” I take you through the grieving process, how to accept the diagnosis, how do you really truly see your child again, as who they were yesterday, before that diagnosis, and then provide you with the tools and resources and personal experiences for me too. To help you get through it. It’ll be a video course. I just got finished filming last week and I interviewed my mom. It was such an emotional interview.
I interview my pediatric audiologist, Carol flexor. I interview an EMT, a marriage family therapist, a speech therapist, Razi Zarchy, I interview him to explore what early intervention looks like. I interview Tina Childress and educational audiologist. And I’m also interviewing Nate Dutra. He is a deaf child to hearing parents. He’s an adult now, but he’s going to talk about parental acceptance theory. And parents can really, truly accept that diagnosis- the sooner, the better! So that the family is cohesive, so that it’s a village of support for the children growing up with hearing loss. And I wrap it all up, I hand it to you. And it’s literally a hug from me to you guys. And that’s number one. I hope that it ups the level of care that pediatric audiologists provide. I hope that they have the resources, the knowledge. That parents are packed with confidence, all of the resources in their backpack and comes full circle. It helps raise those children as the world changers that they’re meant to be.
Dr. Lilach Saperstein: I’m speechless! So moving! And why I think we obviously connect so well because we have these exact mission of doing this so that the parents can support their children. As pediatric audiologists specifically, we want to serve our patients. But… children are not going to drive themselves to the appointments. They really rely fully and completely on their parents. We spent the first few years of life for everything for the parents are also semi the patient.
Dr. Michelle Hu: It’s a lot to take on parenthood. Being a parent of a child with special needs, someone with a disability. Who’s going to take care of the parent? I really wanted to set this program up so that parents can take care of themselves. Feel confident and know that you still get to make whatever choices that are best for you and your family. It’s not the doctors telling you what to do. I’m giving you all of the knowledge/resources so that you can find what best fits your family and your child’s personality. so that they can thrive.
Dr. Lilach Saperstein: And it’s coming from you. I love that. I love it. That you’re sharing both your professional and your personal take on everything. I think that’s so powerful and that you’re an audiologist. For parents to see.
Dr. Michelle Hu Instagram: I had a love-hate relationship with it before. I do have a personal account. It’s literally just my kids, a little yearbook or scrapbook for my kids. But because of the access, Instagram provides to people, videos, I can show you how I wake up in the morning. I can show you fun things. Like, what do you want to cook for dinner? I can get ideas from other people like, Hey, I have no idea what to cook for dinner. Tell me! Or what I do. I don’t know, like while driving, if I just have a thought like, oh, maybe someone could benefit from that. Then that was worth somebody seeing the zit on my face [chuckle] or something. Like, it’s so easy just to share that knowledge and the people that need that information, I hope will find me. I found you! How would we ever have run into each other? I don’t know.
Dr. Lilach Saperstein: We almost got our time zones mixed up here from pacific in the U.S. all the way Israel, it is late for me…
Dr. Michelle Hu: Carol Flexor, do you know her? Or of her?
Dr. Lilach Saperstein Oh, no, I just know of the legendary…
Dr. Michelle Hu: Oh, she’s wonderful. She’s absolutely wonderful. And it’s literally to the core. She just wants to help and put goodness out in the world and give access to children. If that’s what their choice is. For listening and spoken language, but if that’s not a parent or family choice, okay. But it’s all about the brain, her soap box is that it’s all about the brain.
Dr. Lilach Saperstein: I’m amazed! Brains are amazing! Especially as being a parent and watching young children develop- it’s day to day, you can watch the gears turning and almost watch in real time how they’re acquiring certain concepts. Now I’m teaching my big one, who is in first grade. We’re doing a lot of reading: Decoding and putting things together and reading comprehension and all these things. You just call them ‘words’ and all of a sudden they’re happening in front of your face.
Dr. Michelle Hu: It makes you up your level of you being a human or a parent, like, ‘Huh? How do I want to present this to him or her?’ ‘What kind of role model do I want them to be?’ Of course, they’re going to do it exactly the way you do it because that’s what they’re seeing. And it’s crazy because my oldest one is a “mini me” and I’m like, oh my goodness! You know? And oh wait, no, that’s really cool. I love that. She’s doing it that way because of me.
Dr. Lilach Saperstein We had an amazing conversation. Today, my daughter asked me why it’s not good to be famous. And she gave me her whole theory that if you’re famous, well, everybody knows you. And then if you want to go somewhere… What if you didn’t want everyone to know that you were going there. She had thought the whole thing through that actually, turns out, she doesn’t want to be famous, because she doesn’t want everyone to know where she’s going and what she’s doing.
So this started a very fascinating conversation on the walk to school about paparazzi. And I told her about privacy and the trade off between fame and security, because also it was in a bigger context in the conversation of… who can take your picture. We’ve been talking about that. She was at a friend, and the mom was like taking pictures of her and her friend. And she was like, ‘wait, I don’t know about this. This has never happened.’ This is post pandemic. Right? Like we’re still figuring out social things all the time. She was uncomfortable with it, just a regular picture, whatever. But then the photo is going to be on my friend’s mom’s phone. ‘Are we cool with that?’ Because like, we talk about consent a lot and things like that. I don’t post their images on social. As my personal choice for them- that they should decide. Yeah, these are the conversations we’re having. It’s amazing. I hope that parents can think a lot about what are their goals, how do they want the future to look like? And not only say in the question.
Dr. Michelle Hu Yeah. Wow. She thought that through! And that’s kind of the life that we live in with social media being so readily accepted or with phones being cameras now and really honoring family privacy.
Dr. Lilach Saperstein: We did an entire episode about internet safety, with Lisa Honold. It’s another whole element. And what about nutrition? What about relationships with family members? Like there’s so many things you have to think about every single day.
Dr. Michelle Hu: Well, you know, um, Christie Keane.
Dr. Lilach Saperstein: Yeah.
Dr. Michelle Hu: Yeah. She recently just decided, you know what? I want to honor who my children are growing up into. If you’re here to see my children. Sorry. Thank you. But that’s not what she’s up to. And I get it. My husband doesn’t love being on Instagram or whatever, but he will, I did a video on how to hold your child for otoscopy or ear molds. He was more than happy to do that for me. Um, but you know, at the end of the day, like we just love the little moments that we have, the little inside jokes that only we know, and we’ll share those with family, but that’s it. It’s ours.
Dr. Lilach Saperstein: And at the same time, on the other hand of this, I’m so grateful that you’re so open in sharing your story and you know that that’s, – that’s going to help so many families and it’s already helping so many families and good luck with the course. It sounds amazing. How can people find out more information besides for following you on Instagram?
Dr. Michelle Hu: I’m in the process of building a page right now, if you want to, you can send an email to me on Instagram or my email is email@example.com. And I will let you know, as soon as it’s available. I’m so excited for it. And my heart is so full because I know it’s what parents need. And I, I don’t know. I feel like I was made to put this out in the world for them. I just really want to empower parents in feeling confident in the decisions that they’re making for their children and for them to know that they’re going to be okay. I’m living proof of it!
Dr. Lilach Saperste Everybody? You heard that?! Yeah.
Some of those anchor thoughts- We talked about this in my program as well- a support groups of moms – that we can come up with these anchor thoughts or affirmations that you can come back to. And not that anyone else would give you that line, but you need to find it. What is that going to help you remember your goals? And stay centered, and it was beautiful. We had a group and everyone said different things. One person said “I can do hard things” and that sentence helps her. When she’s in a tough situation, “I can do hard things.” Another person said, “stay in the moment.” The word ‘moment’. Everyone comes at it from their, – what they need. At their perspective. It’s really a beautiful circle. So I hope that people think about: what is your anchor thought?
Dr. Michelle Hu: Absolutely. And what it life without a few challenges here in there? Because that’s when you know how much you have within you to overcome that. And man, when you overcome something you feel so good, so capable. Remember how you felt when you had your first child. ‘Oh my gosh. I made that human being.’ That’s what life is about: those ups and those downs and the triumph. You can’t get that without the challenges.
Dr. Lilach Saperstein: Would you say that that is like an anchor thought you have throughout your life?
Dr. Michelle Hu: I finally, maybe in the past 5 or 10 years, maybe, really just being on my own. When I moved out to California to be an audiologist, it was eye opening. How I welcome challenges now, like, ‘okay, here’s the breakdown? What am I going to do?’ You know, beyond that a life or death situation. Um, what is my main goal in life? And it really is just to keep on shining, to keep on glowing so that I can keep on putting good, positive energy out there.
Because if I’m not living happily, how can somebody else see what is possible? Don’t get me wrong. I have days where I’m crying. I have days where I’m just [ugh!] frustrated and my tank is completely depleted. But okay. Now what? That’s kind of how I’ve always approached things. Okay. All right. What’s next? What can I do from here? Where can I go? And when you really realize, like, where are you is where you can start being creative and start digging deep and figuring out, okay, I’m committed to this. This is what I want. This is the outcome I want. How do I get there? You really get creative.
Dr. Lilach Saperstein: Can you tell us one of your stories or something that you’re willing to share about kind of a time that was very meaningful for you in adulthood? You know, because you told a lot about your childhood and growing up and I’d love to hear like what. Yeah. And also about your cochlear implant experience, and what was that transition like?
Dr. Michelle Hu: There was a patient I had -Chinese just like me. She had a cochlear implant when she was younger, maybe around 10 years old. And she came in with her mom. I had an ASL interpreter in person and a Chinese interpreter on the phone for mom. Since it’s not a fluent language for me. Um, this patient was ASL-choosing deaf community, Deaf culture, and telling her mom, she didn’t want to wear her cochlear implant anymore.
Okay. She’s a teenager now. She had lost it twice. Purposely- just throwing it away or purposely not making it a priority. And mom was coming in to me, begging me, ‘tell my daughter to wear her cochlear implant.’
And I was like, “she’s a teen, something about it isn’t making her happy. Access to sound isn’t her priority right now.” And I see the patient. I don’t see parents. They’re part of the patient. Yes. However, I asked the mom, if you could step out a little bit for a few minutes and I just talked to her, where is she at? She’s like, “I connect with Deaf culture. I love using ASL. Those are my friends. Those are the people that truly accept me for who I am. I don’t want to…” And she can’t even speak Chinese. That’s where mom speaks. Mum barely knew ASL. So you see that rift, you see that broken bridge in between the two of them.
Mom came back in and she said to her daughter, “Don’t you want to be like Dr. Michelle?” My heart just shattered.
At that moment was one of the moments that I actually wished that a patient and parent didn’t know that I had hearing loss. Usually it’s ‘what a cool advantage to have, what an amazing opportunity to be a role model for children.’ And honor who your daughter is. Honor where she’s at, in life, meet her, where she’s at. And it just took me to a spot of I’m exactly where I need to be. And so is she, um, it just so happens, you know, I chose this way and that’s what mom wants and kudos to her daughter for standing strong and saying, you know? This is what makes me happy. Not that in the moment.
And as an audiologist, I let her know if you choose not to wear your device, FYI, you know, your hearing muscles might deteriorate. They might- your spoken language might not be as strong as it used to be. You might think about this later, are you okay with accepting in quote, those :consequences”? And she said, yes, she came back a few years later. I want to wear my cochlear implant again. I want to be able to have the best of both worlds. Great. Okay. Let’s go from there. You might have to do a little bit more hard work, um, to get back up to where you used to be. Okay. But no judgment. I’m here for you. I’m going to help you. We’ll look at programming. It would be a good idea to get back into speech therapy, all of those things so that you want that full picture. You want to be have the best of both worlds.
Um, that really shaped who I was for myself and who I was for my patients as I went on with practicing. And that’s a hard conversation to have.
Dr. Lilach Saperstein: Yeah. And I enormously respect this position that we don’t have a position necessarily, but the position is what’s good for you. What’s working for your family and for you and yourself.
Dr. Michelle Hu: Then I’ll dig in my toolbox and help you get there.
Dr. Lilach Saperstein: Exactly. And I think so many people do come up against, or experience judgment, and shame, whatever decisions they’re making. So that’s a tough one. You know, you’re on the parent’s journey for a long time. Then the kids themselves, have their own journey, balancing that. That’s an incredible story. I’m glad you were able to be there.
Dr. Michelle Hu: I think challenging situations are probably the best ones and where you discover most about yourself. I chose to go to culinary school. One of the noisiest situations you can be in, with a French professor that I couldn’t understand. Like, an educational audiologist’s, acoustic nightmare, [chuckle] All of these stainless steel tables around, refrigerators humming, water running!
And because my end goal is like, I just really want to learn these skills and I love culinary arts. How do we figure this out? How do you make this happen? And it really taught me to dig deep, to be able to receive help, ask for resources. And you don’t know what might come up unless you ask. Of course, if you just shrink back and be a wallflower, the circumstances are going to stay the same.
Dr. Lilach Saperstein: What were some of the accommodations you had in that kitchen?
Dr. Michelle Hu: I think I tried two different FM systems. And for safety reasons, you don’t want to have loose wire hanging in the kitchen. They even said, be careful with your medical ID bracelet. If you get caught on something, it could burn, it could burn your skin. All of those things.
I had a buddy, I requested a front cooking station. I requested extra- could I have the curriculum or the notes beforehand? Could I come in early? Can I understand the vocabulary? It was a lot of prep work for me. And the hardest part was probably the French accent, but a lot of culinary arts is seeing, watching, what are they doing? And then understanding why, well, that’s the verbal part. He’s saying we’re going to do this because of this. And I’m like, what did he say? And learning as you go learning, what works for you learning? Why does this step, seven steps before doing that part, matter than if you do that, you know, two steps later or something, what does it bring out in that ingredient? Or how does that method affect the protein or the fat? It’s just a big, fun chemistry lab for me in the kitchen. It really is. And it’s one of the best things that I’ve ever done. Some people love traveling or having all of these stamps in their passport. For me, it was culinary school for whatever purposes and reasons and my family gets to benefit.
Dr. Lilach Saperstein: And we get to benefit! From your Instagram stories.
Dr. Michelle Hu: It’s just so fun.
Dr. Lilach Saperstein: That’s great. Oh, I’m so glad you brought that real life, real world experience and the having to ask for accommodations. And we’ve had that conversation before here. If you ask for accommodations, then you’re also making a commitment to yourself that whatever this is matters. Like if you say I need extra time, then you have to study more and there’s almost sometimes an opportunity to say, well, I don’t really feel like it, or I don’t want the teacher to always give me extra attention. It does come with its cost. I think.
People maybe push, especially young kids and teenagers into like, you have to use the accommodations when maybe it’s not in their best interest socially or emotionally or even academically.
Dr. Michelle Hu: But if you start it earlier, then they can have that confidence in knowing…or the, the mentor or the teacher, whoever you’re asking can know, oh, they’ve thought this through. They’re coming at me with a solution versus telling me I need help. And I need to figure it out now.
Like, if I go to them, I say ‘it really would help me if I could see your face to get visual cues.’ Oh, okay. What I have to say is important to them. I can make this one little change for them. Not facing the chalkboard when I’m teaching or talking, maybe getting a clear shield or a clear mask, so they can have that access because “Wow. They really want to be here. They really want to be a part of this.” And it’s not annoying to that mentor or teacher it’s man. They really want to get this stuff. And if you offer solutions versus complaints or questions, then you’re working together as a team you’re collaborating.
Dr. Lilach Saperstein Okay. Oh my gosh. I love that. I love that advice. And I think also. Also can use that method in IEP meetings and in all the advocacy, if you just tell people, no, we can’t come to that party or we’re not participating in this or that – also social events or school events, but it should say our child would like to be included, would like to be a part. This is important to us and here’s what we need. And here’s why. That’s a very different conversation. Then coming at it like,
Dr. Michelle Hu: “we’re a victim…”
Dr. Lilach Saperstein: Yeah. I’m going to ask you Dr. Michelle Hu, if you have one last piece of advice, word of wisdom, to share with our audience, listeners to the show, as well as read full transcripts at allaboutaudiology.com that’s both parents, families, children, adults, everybody in our, in our world and professionals, that would be the best.
Dr. Michelle Hu: Take a breath and be present. With your thoughts, your feelings where you’re at and try to do so for whoever you’re with. One of the best pieces of advice working with pediatrics, and it applies to adults, is meeting them where they’re at. Are they scared? Are they so happy? And just being with, slowing down. Not focusing on what’s next or what the end goal is can really, really make a significant impact or influence on your experience with yourself and with them. So take a breath.
Dr. Lilach Saperstein We all need to remember that!
Dr. Michelle Hu. It’s so easy to forget. I’m totally guilty, but if, you know, take a breath.
Dr. Lilach Saperstein With that. I invite everybody to take a breath and visit Dr. Michelle on Instagram at Mama.Hu.Hears And the All About Audiology podcast on Instagram, on Facebook and allaboutaudiology.com. Thank you so much for coming on the show today and thank you for being a listener. Thank you especially to the patrons of the podcast. You can become a patron at patreon.com/allaboutaudiology.
I’m Dr. Lilach Saperstein and this is the All About Audiology podcast.
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