Daily Updates, Future Ear Radio, Hearing Healthcare, Podcasts

092 – Michelle Hu, AuD – Building the “Mama Hu Hears” Brand

Hello and welcome back for another episode of the Future Ear Radio podcast. This week, I’m joined by Michelle Hu, Pediatric Audiologist and creator of the popular Instagram page, “Mama Hu Hears.” Michelle joined me on the podcast to share her backstory, her motivation for starting Mama Hu Hears, how she has amassed 10,000 Instagram followers, and what she uses her Instagram platform for.

Michelle grew up hard of hearing and was fit with hearing aids at the age of three. In her mid-twenties, Michelle opted to get surgically fit with bilateral cochlear implants, which she still wears today. So, as Michelle describes, Mama Hu Hears serves as a forum for her to share some of her own personal experiences growing up with hearing loss and wearing hearing aids during her youth, as well as life as a cochlear implant wearer. In addition, she shares her perspective of as a pediatric audiologist and the kinds of scenarios and frequently asked questions she sees in clinic.

Through her Mama Hu Hears social pages, Michelle has received messages from thousands of deaf/hard of hearing (DHH) people and parents of DHH children who have sought Michelle out for help, guidance and to share their stories. This inspired Michelle to create an online program titled “My Child Has Hearing Loss, Now What?” to support anxious and doubtful parents through their family’s DHH journey. Her mission is to serve and empower children/families – especially those who are underserved and underrepresented.

Michelle is yet another example of someone within the field of Audiology making an outsized impact with her community by leveraging the combination of social media and a mix of personal and professional experiences.

This episode can be viewed on YouTube with Captions: here.

-Thanks for Reading-
Dave

EPISODE TRANSCRIPT

Dave Kemp:

Hi, I’m your host, Dave Kemp, and this is Future Ear Radio. Each episode, we’re breaking down one new thing, one cool new finding that’s happening in the world of hearables, the world of voice technology. How are these worlds starting to intersect? Are these worlds starting to collide? What cool things are going to come from this intersection of technology. Without further ado, let’s get on with the show.

Dave Kemp:

All right. We have an awesome episode here on the Future Ear Radio podcast. Today, I am joined by Dr. Michelle Hu, you might know her through her persona, Mama Hu Hears. Michelle, thank you so much for joining us. If you wouldn’t mind, maybe share a little bit about who you are and what you do.

Dr. Michelle Hu:

Thank you, Dave, so much for having me. I’m really excited to be here. Yeah, I’ve been a pediatric audiologist for over 12 years now in San Diego, California. I’m a mama of three children now. I’m a military spouse and I happen to be hard of hearing. I was identified when I was a toddler, wore hearing aids throughout my life, and I’m now a cochlear implant recipient. I started my Instagram, mama.hu.hears, during maternity leave when I missed connecting with my patients and just thinking about them because they often ask me questions. “Michelle, how do you wake up at night to hear the baby cry? Do you wear your hearing devices or what do you do? What technology do you use or what tips and tricks or life hacks do you use?” That kind of happened and here we are two years later, I’ve created an online course for parents and I get to do podcasts with cool people like you.

Dave Kemp:

Thank you. Well, I appreciate the compliment. It really is so cool to have you on. I highly, highly encourage everybody who’s listening, to check out her Instagram page, mama.hu.hears. When I was looking through it, I was just really blown away. First, I should take a step back and just say, you’re actually the first person I’ve had on the podcast, as far as I know, that is a cochlear implant recipient. I had Matt Hay on before, and I know he has a different brain stem implant that’s a little bit of a different beast, but I just wanted to kind of really acknowledge that and talk through that a little bit.

Dave Kemp:

What I really took away from your Instagram when I went on there is like, it’s not only really helpful, I would imagine, for fellow cochlear implant wears or people that are perspective implant recipients, but also the community around it. I thought that it was really cool that you had a lot of tips on there as somebody that has quote unquote normal hearing, how can I be a better ally to the people with hard of hearing or suffering around me? I think that audiologists in particular, could really gather some interesting insights that they could then use their own spin on it or whatever, but take a lot of this and make it part of their whole positioning around particularly the higher levels of severity of hearing loss. Those tips and strategies and coping mechanism, it’s totally the adage of like, if one person has a question, everybody has it.

Dave Kemp:

I was on your page for 30 minutes just scrolling and everything was just like, “Wow, that’s really smart. That’s great.” Is that something that is widely communicated to the patient base by the hearing professional? I just wanted to give you ample opportunity today to really kind of go in on, how Mama Hu Hears came to be. You just briefly touched upon it, but your own journey of, you said you were diagnosed at two, what was that period of your life leading into the cochlear implant and then kind of through my own research and discussing with many people, it’s a pretty, I guess, shocking period, right when you’re out of that, like right after you get it. I’d be really curious to hear about the acclimation period of getting used to it. Any and all of that, I would just be really curious to kind of just dive in and hear all about out how your brand and your story came to be.

Dr. Michelle Hu:

Yeah. Thank you. I think that being deaf and hard of hearing, it’s a lifelong journey whether or not they choose to use hearing amplification or not. If they choose to use ASL primarily and stay a within deaf culture, deaf community is a lifelong thing. When it’s a situation like that, you really want to village around you, whether it’s your hearing healthcare professionals, whether it’s your cultural community, whether it’s your family. What can they take on lifestyle wise, closed captioning on the TV or movies in the theater, or becoming close and trusting finding an audiologist that you trust. Finding a deaf mentor that you feel comfortable with. Finding a speech language pathologist that you feel comfortable with and can grow with. It’s really a journey. It’s a lifelong thing. It’s so unique for everyone.

Dr. Michelle Hu:

I created my program, yes, because I have found success in dealing with, or living my life powerfully in the face of being deaf or hard of hearing. I don’t push the way that I did things on anybody. Each family, each patient, each child is unique and I don’t know their dynamics. What I do know is, shifting your mindset, how to come together, what conversations that are important to have with your child or with your co-parent or with your partner.

Dr. Michelle Hu:

Yeah, I was diagnosed very, very young. I’m 39 now. I’m just taking all of those experiences, both personal and professional, and I’m putting it out there. I think that we learned something today about Zoom with closed captioning. I requested it from you. You were like, “Oh, of course. We need that.” I found myself actually saying, “Hey, if you can’t figure it out, no worries. I have a backup plan. I’ll use webcaptioner.com.” What I really appreciate and respect about you is you’re like, “Nope, let me figure this out. It’ll take a few minutes.” It took a few tries, but here we are, now you know how to turn it on. Now I know that I don’t have to bend over backwards for the hearing community to accommodate for you guys. I just really appreciate that.

Dave Kemp:

Well, I appreciate you saying that. Yeah, I mean, like she said, I was struggling. I thought that I knew where the closed captioning, the live captioning link was within Zoom. It turns out I know where it is on Microsoft Teams and within Google Meet, but I couldn’t figure it out on Zoom. You actually have to log in to the web browser and it’s in the advanced settings and all that. I do think that your broader point there, speaks to something that I’m trying to be really cognizant of, which is how can I be better about being, this all being really top of mind, understanding that in a Zoom dominated world that we live in now, that what is maybe out of sight out of mind for me, is really important to folks like you. Just being respectful of that and having that be something that we’re all a little bit more aware of, I think goes a really, really long way.

Dave Kemp:

That’s a perfect segue into kind of this whole theme of, that’s part of the audiologist value today, and I think is going to be even more pronounced into the future is this whole idea of, I know that I’ve heard and I’ve seen in some of these different message boards and stuff like, “I’m not tech support.” I’ll hear different audiologists and hearing professionals say stuff like that. I really empathize with that, but I think that it needs to be acknowledged that if not you, then who is going to be the one that really helps to create this optimal setup for your patients?

Dave Kemp:

It could be things like, “Here’s a printout, laminated card that shows you, here is how you can go about enabling captions and all these different things,” making it so that it’s really easily shareable so that your patients can send it to their employer. They can send it to all these different people. I mean, I think it’s just being one thought ahead and saying, “What are the ways that my patients might encounter difficulty on a regular basis? How can I help to sort of cut that off at the pass and enable them in such a way by championing in them in these various ways about,” like I said, “in these new environments that we’re always engaged in like Zoom, so that they have a good, optimal experience as well?”

Dr. Michelle Hu:

Yeah. I think experience is the best teacher. Now you know where not to go, exactly where to point somebody, as well as for our hearing healthcare professionals. A lot of times, I’ve been with patients and they’re just like, “You get it. You know exactly what that sound is or that feeling or that frustration.” They really appreciate being with an audiologist that has been there or has been in some type of similar situation. I’m stepping into being that segue or being that translator for my fellow professionals, but also for my fellow deaf and hard of hearing community members. If there’s anything that I can do, I’ll put it out there. I want us all to win, so that we can just grow stronger and really empower more within the deaf and hard of hearing community, to maybe specifically address certain things or give them words to explain it a little bit better, or give the audiologists or a hearing healthcare professionals, better language or tools to understand the patient that they’re serving if they don’t have a hearing loss, if they haven’t lived through it before.

Dave Kemp:

Let’s talk a little bit about the book that you wrote. I’d be really curious about the motivation behind it. I mean, obviously this is, I love that, My Child Has Hearing Loss, Not What? Obviously there’s a lot of your own personal story in there, I would imagine, a lot of your own experience. Kind of walk us through how this whole thing came to be. Was this another maternity project? Was this something that, it seems as if the main takeaway here is really to just impart some of your own wisdom and experience onto others, but just share with us kind of the whole backstory behind this guidebook.

Dr. Michelle Hu:

Yeah. Listen With Lindsay actually inspired me to start my Instagram. She gave me confidence and a couple of my friends also were saying, “You have so much to share here.” Here I thought I would just went out of topics to talk about, but I decided to do Instagram for a year. If I still enjoyed it, I would see what I could create and put out there to help my audience. Thousands of parents were asking me questions and they’re all questions that I had received in the clinic, but I have three kids at home now and I was like, “How can I give them what’s in my brain, without having to physically be with these patients?” I can only see between eight to 12 patients max a day.

Dave Kemp:

Yeah.

Dr. Michelle Hu:

How can I do something? I decided to come up with this video online program, it’s got eight modules. It addresses what the emotions surrounding an identification or diagnosis of hearing loss, what types of testing do we do in audiology? How can you prepare for those? What are some of the options available out there in terms of communication or amplification if you want to go down that route? What do I do when my child gets to school age? How to take care of the caretaker and how to, this is my favorite part, create advocacy and teach advocacy within your children.

Dr. Michelle Hu:

It was initially targeted towards the parents of deaf and hard of hearing children, but I branched out. Graduate students were reaching out to me. Schools are looking at incorporating it into their curriculum, which is fantastic. If we can start at the root, if we can start with the parents, but if we can also start while we’re training those hearing healthcare professionals and give them insight into, I’m just one person who’s deaf and hard of hearing that happens to be a hearing healthcare professional. There are a few of us, not that many, but more audiologists, speech language pathologists, they need to get into our shoes and kind of see where we’re coming from. We’re starting with the grad school level. We’re partnering with some nonprofits. I’ve also found out you can use in AHSA conversion form so that if you purchase the program, you can actually get eight hours of continuing education.

Dave Kemp:

Nice.

Dr. Michelle Hu:

Win-win, right? You get trained or you get to learn about my perspective and how I practice with pediatrics and families. Also, my most favorite part of the program is I have 13 bonus interviews, one of which is my mom. Because there was somebody filming, there was that third party that was addressing questions and she was explaining to the camera, the emotions, the thoughts, all of those things that were going through my mom’s mind, 36 years ago.

Dave Kemp:

Yeah.

Dr. Michelle Hu:

I started crying because I didn’t know a few things. She thought it was her fault. She thought she did something while she was pregnant. As a parent now, my heart just breaks because I get it. Of course, I don’t want my children to suffer or go through challenges more than they need to, but it shifted my mindset because for me, it never really occurred to me as a problem. I think it’s much, much harder to acquire a hearing loss than to grow up with one. I didn’t really know better at that young age, and something that for me was just, it’s just so, “This is my life and my life is pretty damn good.” I think it helped my mom move on like, “Oh, okay. She’s going to be totally fine. Look what she’s created out of this and look how she’s paying it forward.”

Dr. Michelle Hu:

I also interview a deaf mom of a hearing and a deaf child. I interview a hearing mom of two deaf children. I interview professionals such as ENT, SOP, ABT, a deaf mom of three deaf children, an entire deaf family. I also interview a marriage family therapist who is a parent of a deaf child. She helps give strategies of the conversation that families should have around being a deaf and hard of hearing family, because you’re not just a family with a deaf and hard of hearing person, you become a deaf and heard of hearing family, a team or a village around that person. You do need to make a few lifestyle changes for everybody to win. I think all of that is so important for families, for children, for peer adults who are hard of hearing, and as well as a professional because we are that village and we can all win.

Dave Kemp:

That’s amazing. I’m just blown away by the amount of diversity that you have in this, in terms of all the different interviews. I can imagine how emotional that portion with your mom must have been. I think that’s really cool that things have come full circle for you. You’re a mom now so you can really see, maybe her perspective a little bit. You mentioned that you have thousands of parents reaching out to you or thousands of people reaching out to you on Instagram and what an awesome thing that you’ve done with launching that. I think that it’s another one of these things that like, we need to be more aware of within this industry of, I guess in this instance, if your child gets diagnosed with hearing loss, where do you turn?

Dave Kemp:

In this information age that we live in, people want to be able to turn to a quick Google search, a quick Instagram search. Of course having folks like you be one of the first thing that pops up and you’d be this just wealth of information, that has to be really gratifying for you because much has been the theme on this podcast. I think that one of the most exciting things about this age that we live in, is that you can have such an outsize impact relative to previous generations because of the internet. You had said you see eight to 12 patients in person a day, but you’re essentially seeing thousands of people every single day with the resources that you’ve created. What have been some of the broad strokes of the kinds of message that you receive, some of the frequently asked questions? I’m just really curious to kind of get a peek behind your Instagram DM messages and just kind of get a sense of, what are the kinds of things that people are coming to you for?

Dr. Michelle Hu:

Yeah. Gosh, parents have reached out and said, “Oh my goodness,” this one breaks my heart but, “My child can have a normal life.” One of the most profound conversations I had was with a mom in the clinic who asked me if I had a boyfriend or if I was engaged. When I told her yes, she started crying and she said, “That means someone will love my child.” I was just taken aback because that had never occurred to me. Of course when I was little, I thought I was going to grow up and marry my dad. I found the perfect person because I came into my own. I had been practicing as a professional, keeping my patients kind of at an arms length because of HIPAA. What I found through Instagram, I actually transformed quite a bit myself, my ideas and stories that I had created in my brain.

Dr. Michelle Hu:

Parents are asking me, I already mentioned, “How do you wake up at nighttime?” They ask me, “Do you understand your children, okay? Their voices are so small.” For that reason, and for fun, I started learning American Sign Language with my children, just casually at the library, library times. My children love it. All of my children are hearing and they just have fun signing to me, especially when their mouths are full. “Ha ha I can’t talk to you mom, but I can use my hands.” They ask me, “How do you hear your children in the car? What did you do in school? Did you use an FM system? What kind of language or dialogues should I be engaging my children and how do I get them to be assertive? How do I get them to do a show and tell with their hearing devices? Where do you find ASL classes? Where can you find a deaf community? What kind of services are there out there?”They don’t know where to start.

Dr. Michelle Hu:

Google can be so overwhelming and there’s amazing resources out there and some not so amazing ones. I just took whatever I’ve been accumulating through my life as a deaf and hard of hearing child, a student, an adult, now a mom, and then as a professional, and I’ve put it all into one spot. I’m also available through DM. I feel like Instagram gives those users a chance to really connect with somebody real on the other end. I’ve had parents ask me, “Oh no, this is broken. What do I do?” I’m able to show them pretty quickly or tell them if I am able to get to that DM. I’ve had parents ask me, “Why do you utilize ear molds if you are using a cochlear implant? Does any sound go in there?” “No, I personally use it for retention.” “Okay. How do I set it up? What do I ask my audiologist to do?” I give them the language. I give them-

Dave Kemp:

Yeah.

Dr. Michelle Hu:

… story. I give them experiences. From that, they take what worked for their life and it’s fantastic. It’s really great to be able to connect with them, because like I said, I used to keep my patients at an arms length. Well now I get to be a part of the community that I’m serving, with my chosen boundaries.

Dave Kemp:

Yeah. Yeah. That makes a ton of sense. Again, I think it’s just so cool that folks like you have really, I think, you’ve set a blueprint of what I think a lot of hearing professionals could do. You’re unique in that you do have hearing loss and that you’re a cochlear implant wearer. You have the empathy angle, if you will, or you have the actual experience. I think that there’s such an opportunity for the profession, broadly speaking, to serve as more of a resource that is maybe a little bit more accessible and available for a lot of these things that are probably single questions, just kind of like point me in the right direction and help me to even figure out where to start, where to begin. I think that you are way ahead of the curve.

Dave Kemp:

Again, shout out to Listen With Lindsay because I know that she’s popped up a number of times throughout my podcast, as another person that’s just really blazing a trail with how to use social media as a hearing healthcare professional. I just think it’s really cool to be meeting all these people that are using it in such an effective way. We hear all the time, all of the downsides to social media. I think that there’s tremendous upside, so long as it’s used in a healthy way, I guess. I just wanted to acknowledge that and say, that’s really cool. I’d be curious to go back to the cochlear implant. Like I said, you’re the first person I’ve had on the podcast that wears a cochlear implant. Can you walk me through the time leading up into it? What ultimately was the catalyst to getting one, and then sort of like life after the cochlear implant and what it’s like now?

Dr. Michelle Hu:

Yeah. My hearing loss is as a result of Pendred syndrome, or an enlarged vestibular aqueduct. Probably every two years I would bump my head and my hearing loss would get worse. My hearing aids would need to be reprogrammed or I would have to get bigger, stronger ones. By the age of 10, I had severe and profound hearing loss bilaterally. I think at that point, I was a cochlear implant candidate. My parents, however, weren’t ready for technology. I was doing so well in school. I use a duck analogy, you’re paddling fiercely under the water just to appear calm, cool, and collected. They didn’t know that, or maybe they did but they thought I was doing okay.

Dr. Michelle Hu:

When I was a senior in college, I had another drop in hearing and I was like, “Okay, I don’t know what I want to do. I need to get a cochlear implant or some kind of surgery.” I didn’t really know what it was yet, but I decided to go into audiology school. It was third year when I’m learning about the ins and outs of how cochlear implants work. I told my dad, I was like, “This is what I’m learning about. Did you know about this technology?” He was like, “Yeah, we knew about it. We’ve known about it since you were 10.” Here I am, 20 what, 25, 26 or 27. I was just blown away by this. I saw it as an opportunity. My dad said, “Well, you’re going to be under our insurance until you’re 26.” Oh, I was probably 24. “You want to try it? You don’t have that much to lose. How about let’s do your left year,” which is my worst ear. I wouldn’t be able to tell you if my battery died for my left hearing aid.

Dr. Michelle Hu:

I decided to do it. Interestingly enough, I watched a surgery in Cleveland, Ohio before getting my own, which probably wasn’t the best idea. I got my second cochlear implant three years later, but it was such an interesting moment because I didn’t know what I had been missing. I remember my classmate activated me with our preceptor and I was like, “Hey, I know you don’t typically do this, but can we jump in the booth and see what I can hear.” I could hear all these different sounds, but I didn’t know what they were. I heard my feet shuffling and I pushed the button. I pushed the button and I thought that was a beeping so I pushed the button again and he was like, “Oh, you’re false positive if what you’re hearing is that clicking.”

Dr. Michelle Hu:

I would sit outside on my front step. I grew up in Kent, Ohio, just listening to all the sounds, the bugs, the cars, frogs croaking in the pond next door, wind rustling in the trees. It was all the same volume for me. If my mom was talking while the printer was going off, it was the same volume and I couldn’t tell the difference. I had to relearn how to focus my hearing attention. That was pretty difficult. It took me a few months for my ear to really start to understand speech and get clear on it. I went back to speech therapy and having somebody else kind of coach me and train me through that, really helped significantly. I had access to so much. I never would’ve moved from Ohio to California on my own if I hadn’t gotten cochlear implants because I didn’t feel confident or safe.

Dr. Michelle Hu:

Before cochlear implants, I only talked on the phone with my mom and on an as-need basis. Now I’m talking with you, I’m talking on the phone with manufacturers, with parents. I mean safety, I wouldn’t have heard somebody running behind me in a parking garage. Whereas now I can hear my dog’s nails on the floor, clock ticking, somebody breathing heavy. It’s really cool that I have a choice to choose what I want to hear, if that makes sense. I tell patients all the time, “You’re not disabled, you’re just differently abled. You see life and you experience life in a different way. Everybody’s journey is different.” Someone might acclimate to a cochlear implant instantly and other people might take a little bit longer, need to do more therapy or take off one side to strengthen that other side. It was definitely one of the, well, probably one of my most favorite choices to do so, but not everybody is a cochlear implant candidate and not everybody wants to. Coming to thinking about it, making the decision on your own or as a family, is really important in that processing together of it.

Dave Kemp:

What would you say to people that are either themselves on the fence or audiologists that have a candidate? What are some of the trepidations that you might have? From your own experience, what would you say to folks that are candidates, but they’re not really fully there yet. It sounds like a lot of this is you have to come to this on your own terms and your own conclusion and all that, but share with us what you would say to these kinds of individuals.

Dr. Michelle Hu:

My best tactic as a human, as an audiologist, as a parent, is meeting that person where they’re at. Justifying and validating their fears, their concerns, their emotions. I get it. You want to hear better. You want to hear in noisy situations or group conversations, but you’re afraid of surgery. Okay. Surgery can absolutely be scary. Yes, surgery does have its risks, but put them on the table, which one outweighs the other and go with that choice. When feelings and emotions and doubts aren’t validated, more often than not, they’re going to feel forced into a decision or they’ll just say no altogether. Then there’s no opportunity in that. I would rather have opportunities to say no to, than have no opportunities at all. All of the doors are closed. I tell patients, I tell people, “Sit with it, figure out what it is that you want, and figure out what it is that would stop you from saying yes to a certain opportunity and go from there.” Usually, the processing is all they need to help them get to their decision.

Dave Kemp:

In your field of work, I know you’re a pediatric audiologist, so you probably don’t do much in the way of cochlear implants, correct?

Dr. Michelle Hu:

I do actually.

Dave Kemp:

You do? Okay.

Dr. Michelle Hu:

I work with diagnostics, evaluation, cochlear implant evaluation, counseling appearance, programming cochlear implants and hearing aids. I get a lot of the teenagers.

Dave Kemp:

Okay.

Dr. Michelle Hu:

Often I’ll get parents of very, very young ones who need or looking for someone to talk to who’s been through it.

Dave Kemp:

Yeah.

Dr. Michelle Hu:

Teenagers come to me saying they feel safe saying, “Yeah, sometimes, some days I wish my hearing aids or my cochlear implants were invisible. I wish I didn’t have to wear it.”

Dave Kemp:

Yeah.

Dr. Michelle Hu:

When I listen to them or I’m that safe space for them, they’ll come to me next appointment and say, “Guess what? I get to turn my ears off whenever I want. I went on a camping trip, I slept soundly. It was fantastic. Everybody got a kick out of seeing my alarm clock, my Shake Awake, or using my FM system, my remote mic,” or, “Guess what? The teacher didn’t even know that I was listening to music via Bluetooth on my hearing aids during class.” I’m like, “I did not recommend you do that, but that’s not my problem.” It’s wonderful being able to work with patients of all different ages. I do have some adult patients as well, even though I work at a children’s hospital, but yeah, I definitely get to work with them.

Dave Kemp:

I’m just so fascinated by this whole topic of cochlear implants. It sounds like you got fit, roughly 10 to 15 years ago, is that right?

Dr. Michelle Hu:

Yeah. About 13 years ago, I got my first cochlear fit.

Dave Kemp:

What’s the difference between cochlear implants from 13 years ago and the cochlear implants today? I know Bluetooth’s a big theme.

Dr. Michelle Hu:

Yeah.

Dave Kemp:

I’m just curious of what you’ve seen in terms of what’s different.

Dr. Michelle Hu:

Yeah. I’ve been through four external processors now. I started with the Cochlear Freedom and that was pretty basic, three programs, volume control sensitivity, no Bluetooth, completely on the ear. It was very thick. Processors and technology have gotten smaller. There are off the ear options now. They’ve come up with waterproof covers for us to go either swimming or actively water play or for children in the bathtub. The Bluetooth is probably my favorite feature. I can answer the phone, stream to both ears, listening to phone calls, podcasts. I don’t listen to many podcasts, only just because I think it’s because I’ve been in speech therapy my whole life. When I’m listening to something, I want to get every single word.

Dave Kemp:

Yeah.

Dr. Michelle Hu:

I can’t just have it in the background. “Oh now they’re talking about cochlear implants, now I want to listen.”

Dave Kemp:

Yeah.

Dr. Michelle Hu:

Let’s see, parts and pieces have gotten a lot better and sound quality with microphones.

Dave Kemp:

Yeah. Fascinating. What you said earlier about the students’ Bluetooth streaming music in class, it is in a way like, it’s kind of crazy the functionality that you can have with those. In a way it’s almost like a superpower, in a sense that you can do a lot of things. It’s a bionic extension of your body. I just find the whole thing fascinating. It does seem like there’s been so much progress made on that side of the technology and that side of the industry,

Dr. Michelle Hu:

Programming algorithms too. Sound quality.

Dave Kemp:

Yeah.

Dr. Michelle Hu:

Just incredible.

Dave Kemp:

Absolutely incredible. Getting back to Mama Hu Hears, what is your plan for the foreseeable future? I mean, what are you really striving for right now? What’s top a mind for you in terms of goal? What’s your mission of what you’re trying to do right now with your brand?

Dr. Michelle Hu:

With the brand, I started it with the idea that I really want children of all populations, especially those underserved, to know that they can accomplish and do anything that they dream of. It starts with a family education. That’s where I created the program, but I share so much on my Instagram. I share personal life. I share professional. I don’t know. I think I’ll write some children’s books. I’ll write some teen books for teenagers, that is that population I feel like doesn’t get as much support. I’d love to create a nonprofit community and a school, if I can do that, where deaf and hard of hearing children have peers or normal hearing peers. They can interact, both sides, when the hearing peers understand what an inclusive community or a classroom setting looks like, and those who are deaf and hard of hearing can also experience that too, so that they can raise the level of expectations and standards for the rest of the world.

Dave Kemp:

That’s awesome. For hearing professionals out there, what can they do or learn from you, in terms of ways that they can be, I guess, better champions for the most severe cases of hearing loss that they see? Obviously they can go to your Instagram page. They can learn a lot about all this there, but I guess, particularly for a young hearing professional that’s just kind of entering into the industry today, it seems like this is just such a tremendous opportunity is to, really lean into this and make it a part of your overall value. “It’s not just about treating your, I’m not going to come and fit you with hearing aids or technology. We’re going to treat your hearing loss and everything that encompasses and your total lifestyle,” whether that’s like we talked about earlier, with helping them with all of the virtual video conferencing that they do and giving them all the tips and tricks they need to be set up for an optimal experience. It goes way beyond that.

Dave Kemp:

I’m just curious to get your thoughts on, you’re standing in front of a room full of 20 incoming graduates. What are some of the things that you would share with them in terms of, “Here’s some things to think about as a deaf and hard of hearing professional yourself,”

Dr. Michelle Hu:

It goes back to meeting them where they’re at. Being in a healthcare field, our job is to provide space, to provide information, to provide resources for patients to figure out what it is that’s best for them. Get involved with the deaf and hard of hearing community. Try to understand the struggles or the challenges that might come up for them. Listen, and really take a look at what their family dynamics are. Different cultures, different parenting styles, different lifestyles for if you’re seeing adults. Reach out to and communicate or engage with leaders in that community. People that are having challenges, really take a look at where they’re at, not looking at what can be fixed right away or first. It’s within those details, within those relationships, that you really are serving that community. It’s not just about, “Oh, I know that that programming needs fixed and that’s going to be the solution to it.” We’re in the business of improving quality of life.

Dave Kemp:

Yes.

Dr. Michelle Hu:

It’s not just one device or one thing, it’s very often, “Do they feel seen and heard?” Engage with the community that we’re serving.

Dave Kemp:

I absolutely love that we are in the business of improving quality of life. Couldn’t agree more with that. I think that’s probably one of the most important things to understand, is that the real core value of the hearing professional is just that. You have to impart your experience in everything that you know about this field to each and another patient in a unique way. That’s how you’ll differentiate and you’ll stand apart, I think, long into the future, because that’s always going to be in demand. I think that as we kind of talked a little bit about when we first started before we started recording, and I said that the theme on this podcast lately has been this whole idea that in a sense, hearing health is being commoditized. Because of that, because of the commoditization from all these like big box retailers and online players and OTC, everything’s very transactional.

Dave Kemp:

It’s like, “Come in the door, I’m going to fit something. I’m going to get you fit with something and then you’re going to be on your way, and hopefully I’ll never see you again.” I think that allows for like, you can go the complete opposite direction of that and be like, “I’m going to give you the optimal care that will transcend just one single device.” It’s going to be much more about, like what you said, this whole quality of life equation and figure out every piece of your life that we can improve, whether it’s communication strategies with your loved ones, the whole, it takes a village mantra, or it’s pairing different pieces of technology together for, “This thing does this really well, and this one is better for your computer.”

Dave Kemp:

I think that there’s so much opportunity there, but it has to go way above and beyond just this new norm that seems to be taking hold, which is, “Come on in and we’ll get you fit with a pair of hearing aids and then you’ll be on your way.” That’s what actually is really encouraging to me is like, I think that audiologists and hearing professionals, broadly speaking, have a really awesome opportunity to set themselves apart in a much more meaningful way. I think they’re now being challenged, broadly speaking, to do so.

Dr. Michelle Hu:

Audiologists and hearing healthcare professionals wear so many hats.

Dave Kemp:

Yeah.

Dr. Michelle Hu:

We’re a counselor, we’re MacGyver, we’re a researcher, we’re business people, educators, or family members or counselors. I remember my school’s program director telling a story about somebody in hospice and one of the physicians was kind of balking or protesting on why the person in the room was getting pocket talkers or, “Why are we trying to sell hearing aids to this family right now? The prognosis isn’t that good.” The audiologist said, “Your job is to promote the quantity or the longevity of life. You will always fail, where my job is to promote the quality of life and I hope to always succeed.”

Dave Kemp:

That’s pretty interesting.

Dr. Michelle Hu:

Stuck with me since school.

Dave Kemp:

Yeah. That’s absolutely fascinating. I’ve just really enjoyed this conversation. I’ve learned a lot from you. Like I said to everybody who’s listening, definitely check Michelle out on Instagram at mama.hu.hears. It’s at mama.hu.hears. Any other closing thoughts or ways in which people can get in touch with you, just for anybody that wants to follow up?

Dr. Michelle Hu:

Oh, if you’re an audiologist, if you have a clinic, reach out to me, I can send you information about the program. I’d love to partner up with you if you’re a nonprofit, so that we can serve those underserved populations or graduate students. Thank you so much for your time.

Dave Kemp:

Absolutely. Well, thank you so much, Michelle. Thanks for everybody who tuned in here to the end and we will chat with you next time. Cheers.

Dave Kemp:

Thanks for tuning in today. I hope you enjoyed this episode of Future Ear Radio. For more content like this, just head over to futureear.co, where you can read all the articles that I’ve been writing these past few years on the worlds of voice technology and hearables and how the two are beginning to intersect. Thanks for tuning in and I’ll chat with you next time.

Leave a Reply