Lacey Zoglmann barely remembers the operation that changed her life.
“The only thing I could remember was them putting me to sleep,” the WKU senior said.
When she was 3, Zoglmann had a cochlear implant put into her right ear. This allowed her to hear for the first time.
Zoglmann said the implant worked so well that she was able to attend grade school in Owensboro with other students who weren’t deaf.
“Sometimes I felt alone,” Zoglmann said. “But I got along.”
Growing up, she said she had a lot of friends who helped make her feel included.
“They didn’t look at me any different,” Zoglmann said.
Although she was able to attend school in a regular classroom, Zoglmann’s parents enrolled her in speech therapy classes right after the device was implanted. She continued with these lessons until she was 13.
Now, at age 21, Zoglmann said she still does well in school without a lot of help from others.
In class, she makes sure to sit in the front row so she can hear the professor clearly. Sometimes she needs someone to transcribe the professor’s lectures on a computer screen for her to read.
Zoglmann said she usually knows within the first week of school whether she’ll need captions and will request it from Student Disability Services.
She also has to make sure she carries batteries wherever she goes.
“Sometimes it goes dead in class and I can’t hear anything without it,” Zoglmann said. Part of her implant is removable, and she only takes it out to sleep and shower.
“First thing in the morning, I put it on,” she said. “Because I love it.”
Both Zoglmann and her mother, who is also deaf, grew up speaking, not signing. In grade school, she was the only deaf person in her class.
In fact, Zoglmann said she wasn’t really a part of the deaf community until she came to WKU. After transferring from Eastern Kentucky University in January 2010, she said that was the first time she had ever met another deaf person with a cochlear implant.
Soon after, she started taking courses in American Sign Language (ASL).
“A lot of people say, ‘It’s funny that you never knew sign language,’” she said.
But since she started learning, Zoglmann hasn’t looked back.
“I just fell in love with it,” she said.
Now, the elementary education major has chosen to study ASL for her minor. She also became involved with WKU’s American Sign Language Organization (ASLO).
Ashley Fox, an assistant professor and faculty sponsor of ASLO, said the organization came from the ASL program at WKU. She said their mission is twofold.
The first is to provide a chance for ASL and deaf individuals to form a bond and improve their skills.
“The students get that outside-the-classroom experience,” Fox said.
The second goal is to raise awareness and involvement.
“We are trying to bridge our communities,” ASLO President Holly Bean said. Bean is a 21-year-old psychology major from Tompkinsville.
After she graduates in May, Zoglmann said she plans to work with deaf people as a career. She hopes to get her master’s degree in Deaf education.
“I would love to teach kids,” she said.
Fox said learning ASL and being aware of the deaf community is important.
“Anyone in any field could possibly be working with a deaf person,” Fox said.