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Middle school student Regan Brady has already accomplished something most people never will. In April 2012, the then 11 year old published her first book, Listening to the Waves.
Diagnosed with severe to profound bilateral hearing loss at 13 months old, Brady received her first cochlear implant at 20 months of age and then her second when she was seven-and-a-half years old. Brady's book, Listening to the Waves, paints a unique picture for readers by not just discussing life with cochlear implants, but from the perspective of an adolescent who's dealt with hearing loss her whole life.
"Because I have had my hearing loss my whole life, my deafness has always simply been a part of who I am. I never give it much thought unless I am specifically asked about it, or I am faced with a situation that is affected by my hearing loss," Brady said. "I never feel different from others my age due to my hearing loss, but if I ever feel down because of my hearing loss, I cope with my feelings by thinking about how lucky I am to be able to even hear and speak."
Brady's positive attitude and outlook have helped her achieve a lot. When she first received her cochlear implants, she had to learn how to use her residual hearing, essentially had to learn how to hear and had to undergo auditory verbal therapy. Now, not only is she in mainstream classrooms, but she's received academic high honors in all four years of middle school, in addition to remaining involved in outside programs.
"I feel that my biggest accomplishment so far has been receiving academic High Honors all four years in Middle School, and also being involved with many sports and leadership positions," Brady said. "I know that I would not have been able to do many of the things I do today, if not for my cochlear implants, and I am very thankful for all of the opportunities that I have been afforded due to them."
Despite having cochlear implants, Brady doesn't feel like they set her apart from her peers that much. Because most of her classmates and friends have been in primary school with her, they are well-versed in her hearing needs, according to Brady.
"My friends are very helpful and supportive when it comes to my hearing loss. They will help me if I miss something in a conversation and they know that I can't hear at night, if we have a sleepover. They also know that I may have to take off my implants for a roller coaster or if we go swimming," said Brady. "I don't find it embarrassing to be asked about my hearing loss, and my classmates and friends treat it as it is - just a small part of who I am."
Brady said her parents were the inspiration behind penning Listening to the Waves. Because most of the resources available on cochlear implants are designed strictly for parents or directed to younger children, Brady wanted to provide information from her standpoint.
"The only information about implants that they had access to were materials for very young children, readying them for cochlear implant surgery or resources for professionals, detailing the technical aspects of implantation," said Brady. "What they needed was a firsthand account about what it would be like actually living with implants every day."
Because Brady's implants have been successful, she expressed a desire to work on another book in the future. Currently she's working on educational videos which are designed to help parents, teachers, healthcare providers and children with hearing loss an informative look at the possible issues that might arise while learning to hear again with cochlear implants.
"Hearing loss should never hold someone back from doing anything. I also want parents to receive correct information about life with an implant, and through reading my book, I feel that they can," Brady said. "Most importantly, I want people to know that anything is possible and remember to dream big!"