By Ericka Carr |

“Just a small town girl, living in a lonely world.”

Katie Soudek would use the opening line of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” to describe her life growing up in small-town Oklahoma. Her days were consumed with Polly Pocket dolls, dance class and voice lessons. She grew up just like everyone else. The only difference is that at 11-years-old, Katie lost her hearing.

To help her hear better now, Katie wears a Cochlear implant. She describes hearing with the device like this:

“When I’m wearing it, it feels like everyone is speaking into a microphone.”

If anyone is familiar with microphones, it’s Katie. As an avid music lover, she competed in her first talent competition when she was about six-years-old. She climbed onstage with ringlet curls and a polka dot dress to sing Shirley Temple’s song “Animal Crackers in my Soup.” Katie continued to sing in her high school’s choir and theatre department before joining the Baylor Women’s Choir for her freshman year.

Katie is now a sophomore psychology major with a minor in American Sign Language Interpretation at Baylor University. She is hoping to use her life experiences to help others who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Thanks to her achievements and involvement in extracurriculars, Katie was awarded the Anders Tjellstrom Scholarship from Cochlear Americas. The scholarship is given to qualified students that are deaf or hard of hearing.

Katie underwent a total of five surgeries in an attempt to restore her hearing. What began as a repair to a hole in her eardrum, a Tympanoplasty, resulted in growths inside her inner ear. The cholesteatomas, caused by one rogue cell, brought about the majority of the damage to Katie’s hearing. None of the surgeries to correct the damage were completely successful, and in the end, only 15% of her hearing remains.

“It was basically a series of unfortunate events,” Katie said. “One thing happened and then I had a surgery, and then another thing happened and I had another surgery. It resulted in me needing a hearing aid.”

Her doctor recommended a hearing aid, but it turned out to be a short-term solution when the device stopped working properly. Katie used the hearing aid for two years before seeking a more reliable solution to assist her hearing.

Thanks to a Cochlear implant, Katie can now hear very well. She underwent a final surgery at the age of 16 to attach the device, which was activated after a few months of healing. The device, called a bone conduction implant, uses a magnet anchored to Katie’s skull and another in the device to process and send sound vibrations straight through the inner ear bones. The brain then processes these vibrations into sound.

What does Katie want people to know? How grateful she is for Cochlear Americas, a company that makes and sells the hearing device she wears.

“I haven’t had a chance to thank Cochlear for not only giving my hearing back but also supporting me even after,” she said. “They didn’t just give me the hearing aid and then say ‘good luck.’ They give resources for the rest of your life. I’m so thankful for that.”