Alexis Nye ‘19 is a first-year doctor of audiology student who was born profoundly deaf in both ears; now, she’s part of the Division of Speech and Hearing Sciences pursuing a career in audiology. At age two, she received her first cochlear implant and began her journey in the field of audiology. A cochlear implant is designed to bypass damaged parts of the ear in order to directly stimulate the auditory nerve.
“Audiology has been fundamental to giving me access to communication and spoken language,” Nye said.
Nye said that working as a teenager at Lions Bear Lake Camp, for children who are deaf or hard of hearing, solidified her interest in pursuing audiology as a career. Around the same time, Nye received a second cochlear implant. At first, she struggled to differentiate sounds and words from bells and whistles. It took several months before she began to comprehend the noises and adjusted well to hearing on both sides for the first time.
While growing up, Nye said her parents made her feel like she was no different from other children who were born able to hear. “My parents made me feel like there’s nothing I couldn’t do. I think that’s where a lot of my confidence comes from,” Nye said.
Nye said her parents were her biggest advocates and never dismissed her goals. She credits her parents for her confidence and ability to stand up for herself. “Growing up I never had to do anything different,” she said. She completed her bachelor’s degree in psychology at UNC-Chapel Hill in 2019 before joining the four-year audiology program offered by the Department of Allied Health Sciences.
Nye said faculty have worked with her to ensure that she has access to the same educational experience as her peers. In a field that focuses on hearing and improving quality of life for clients, she has already worked with practicing clinicians in the field who have mentored her to allow for her success in the program.
Those same mentors and clinicians have continued to support Nye as online learning efforts began in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. For instruction, Nye relies on captioning systems. A lack of other cues—such as body language, facial expressions, and gestures—has made the transition more difficult. However, Nye has continued to adapt to new learning environments and technologies.
“Faculty have been very helpful in making sure that I have access to what I need,” Nye said.
She hopes to be an encouraging voice in her work with future clients, and their parents, who might feel disheartened about their child’s hearing diagnosis.
“I look forward to being an audiologist who can also be a role model for children with cochlear implants,” Nye said.
Nye said she hopes to continue advocacy work during her remaining years in the doctoral program.
“Deafness can, at times, be challenging. Education and advocacy are the keys.”
The division is one of seven housed in the Department of Allied Health Sciences in the UNC School of Medicine. Ranked #5 by U.S. News and World Report, the audiology program is among the best in the country.
-Lizzy Laufters, public relations and communications intern