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Arielle Abrams is a third-year Doctor of Audiology student in the Division of Speech and Hearing Sciences who hopes her experience with hearing loss will positively influence the field of audiology from the standpoint of patient care and research.

An audiologist diagnosed Abrams with hearing loss when she was one-and-a-half years old.

“I grew up going to audiologists all the time,” Abrams said. “I have an appreciation for the type of work they got to do.”

Abrams recalled using a frequency modulation box during elementary school and is grateful to her former teachers and parents who encouraged her as a student. That encouragement has continued as an audiology student–thanks to the encouragement of Abrams’s professor, Patricia Johnson, AuD, she now wears a cochlear implant, which allows her to hear high-pitched sounds. Abrams said she hadn’t considered getting a cochlear implant before beginning the Doctor of Audiology program in the Department of Allied Health Sciences.

“It’s an entirely different world out there being able to hear this entire range of sound that I was missing before,” she said. “When I first got activated, I was hearing the water running and squeaky footsteps.”

For Abrams, the field of audiology is a natural fit. She is a Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disorders (LEND) trainee through the Carolina Institute for Development Disorders (CIDD), an opportunity that has provided her hands-on collaborations with children and their families.

“I want to teach my patients and their parents how to advocate for their kids,” Abrams said. “I think it can just help sometimes for them to see how successful their kid can be can be if they get the right intervention, the right therapies if they’re really advocating for their child,” she said.

The Department of Allied Health Sciences’ dedication to students with disabilities drew Abrams to the program, which she was able to tour as a prospective student.

“They have had students with hearing loss in the past,” Abrams said. “The faculty took me from clinic to clinic, and it made me realize this is where I needed to be.”

As part of her clinical work, Abrams has gotten hands-on experience at the UNC Hearing and Communication Center, a faculty-run audiology and balance clinic.

“I can see one day adult hearing aids, another day children’s cochlear implants, and another day be doing balance. I really like it because we get to see so much early in the program,” Abrams said.

Abrams, a University of Maryland, College Park alumna, said she wants to teach her patients and their parents how to advocate for their children. She hopes research into issues such as auditory brain-stem responses, single-sided deafness, and expanded indications for cochlear implants will make a difference for future students and patients.

“A lot of these things are happening firsthand here,” Abrams said. “It’s really great to be taught by people doing that research and then carrying it over and seeing it in clinic.”