Ellie Spanel

Ellie Spanel photo

  • Please tell us your name.

Ellie Spanel

  • Are you Deaf?  Hard of Hearing?  Other?

I am hard of hearing and have a moderately-severe “cookie-bite” sensorineural hearing loss.

  • What mode or modes of communication do you use?

I wear hearing aids and use spoken language.

  • Please tell us about your experience in school.  What schools did you attend for elementary school, high school and college?  What did you like and dislike about those schools?

I grew up in Norfolk, NE and attended Jefferson Elementary and Norfolk High. The school system offered a lot of support for me, particularly in elementary school. I had a wonderful deaf educator who worked with me and made sure that I had the accommodations I needed, including an FM system I used during class. I was also blessed with very accepting classmates. I cannot think of a single time when I was teased or felt out of place for wearing hearing aids.

I completed my undergraduate degree at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where I am currently finishing up a graduate degree in Audiology. My experiences with hearing loss as well as with my audiologist are what motivated me to go into the field. I cannot wait to begin my career supporting others with hearing loss the way my audiologist and deaf educators have supported me.

  • Please tell us about your work experiences.  What is your current job?  What other jobs have you held?  What was your favorite job?

In addition to being a graduate student, I currently work as a hearing aid assistant at Ear, Nose, and Throat Specialties in Lincoln. In the past I have had several jobs that I have typically held over my summers off as a student, including waitressing at Valentino’s and working at golf courses in Norfolk and in Lincoln. Although all-you-can-eat Valentino’s dessert breadsticks and free golf were pretty great, my favorite is my job at ENT Specialties. I love being able to offer our “walk-in” clinic where people can come in with a hearing aid related issue without an appointment. They are always so grateful when I can get their hearing aid back in working order – their reactions alone are worth doing the job.

  • Please tell us about your hobbies and interests.

I absolutely love being outdoors and enjoy biking, taking walks, and camping. I love road trips – especially to Colorado to snowboard or go hiking. I also enjoy playing sports/games but do not have a single competitive bone in my body – unless, for some reason, I am playing ping-pong – which I happen to be strangely good at.

  • Please tell us anything else you would like to share about yourself or your family.  For example:  Are other members of your family Deaf or Hard of Hearing?  Are you married, do you have children?   

Other than a grandfather who had age-related hearing loss, I have no other family members who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing. I am currently engaged and will be married this May! My fiancé is extremely supportive when it comes to my hearing loss. He is aware of situations where I cannot hear as well, and acts as my ears if I ever need it. He knows that I need closed captioning when we watch a movie and I can remember one time when we first started dating, he spent 20 frustrated minutes trying to figure out how to turn it on and would not give up. It’s the little things that make you fall in love.

  • What advice do you have for children who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing and their families?

My advice comes from not only a personal perspective but also from an audiology perspective. For the children who are Hard of Hearing, my advice is to wear your hearing aids even when you are not in school. Growing up, I used to take my hearing aids out before I even took my shoes off when I got home from school. I didn’t think I needed them outside of class. As I get older, I have noticed that I miss more than I realize and have been trying to wear them all the time. It’s been a hard habit to break, so I would say try to wear them as much as you can.

Another piece of advice would be to always be proud of who you are. Your hearing loss, while it does not define you, is a part of who you are. Don’t feel embarrassed to speak up if you can’t hear something. Sit at the front of the class if you need it. Have your teacher wear an FM. Ask someone to repeat if you didn’t hear them, and don’t beat yourself up if you heard something wrong. This is something I am still working on. I can’t tell you how many times I have been too embarrassed to ask “what” that I have just smiled and nodded, only to find out that person just asked me a question. Dealing with hearing loss is a learning process. Keep in mind that everyone struggles to hear in some situations– so even people with normal hearing can often relate.

My advice for families would be that while hearing aids help – they don’t make everything perfect. Your family member with hearing loss likely will not hear you when you’re speaking from another room. If at all possible, speak so that you are facing them. Many individuals with hearing loss rely on visual cues to hear you. If you say something and they seem to be ignoring you – do not get angry. Simply make sure they are listening, because they may not have heard you. Also, (a personal pet peeve) if you make a passing joke and they ask what you said, do not just say “nevermind” or “forget about it.” As insignificant as this may sound, this can make someone feel extremely left out.

For parents, my biggest piece of advice is to be a source of support. Getting early intervention and making sure the school is providing appropriate accommodations is critical. Also, know that you are not alone. There are countless resources for parents needing advice, support, or simply someone who will listen (including Hands & Voices!)