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Meet Whitney Spagnola, a Phonak employee with hearing loss

Meet Whitney Spagnola, a Phonak employee with hearing loss

October 15, 2021
Published by Jacqueline Drexler

Whitney Spagnola works for Phonak, the hearing aid brand that sponsors The Phonak employee also wears hearing aids and is a mother of two children with hearing loss.

Becoming a Phonak Employee With Hearing Loss

Whitney Spagnola’s journey to Phonak was not by chance. Before becoming a Phonak employee with hearing loss, she was commuting 90 minutes each way for work. Feeling burned out, she needed a change.

At the time, she had a daughter with congenital hearing loss. During Spagnola’s search for a new job, she saw that her daughter’s hearing aid manufacturer, Phonak, was hiring. Spagnola pushed hard for the job and was hired in 2017 as the business development manager for pediatrics. In that role, she has collaborated with audiologists, researched the latest audiological findings for pediatrics, and put together inspiring stories on why hearing solutions are so critical for children. Not that this topic needs a story, but converting highly technically research for extremely busy pediatric and educational audiologists into actionable information is helpful. We need an everyday lens to simplify it. This is where Spagnola’s passion and enthusiasm for her work shine.

Discovering Hearing Loss

After being hired by Phonak, one of the first things Spagnola learned is that many people with tinnitus also have hearing loss. She also has tinnitus in both ears. Since her teen years, she had often misunderstood things compared to her peers, but thought this was normal.

“Since her teen years, she had often misunderstood things compared to her peers, but thought this was normal.”

Considering this, plus her daughter’s hearing loss, Spagnola decided she should get her hearing tested. That’s when she discovered she had moderate hearing loss in both ears.

Getting Fitted With Hearing Aids

As Spagnola works for Phonak and her daughter wears Phonak hearing aids, Spagnola had a good foundation for which hearing aid technology was most suitable for her listening needs.

She opted for the Phonak Lyric. She loved how Lyric offers invisibility and can be worn 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This means being able to hear, even in the shower. Despite not having to worry about knocking her hearing aids off when changing outfits or readjusting her glasses, the Lyric ended up not working out. To wear Lyric, it is important to have the right ear canal anatomy for good wearing comfort. However, Spagnola’s ear canals swelled and contracted due to her hormone levels, causing discomfort while wearing Lyric.

Spagnola is now wearing the Phonak Audéo Paradise and in combination uses Phonak Roger technology. One of her favorite work projects was a sound demo program. This listening simulation shows why children should use multiple remote microphones in the classroom. But it’s not just children who benefit from Roger technology. Whitney also recently wrote about how Roger technology helps her as a professional.

Children With Hearing Loss

Spagnola, who lives near Aurora, IL., now has two children with mild hearing loss. Her daughter is in fourth grade, and her son is in kindergarten. Even after coming to terms with her own hearing loss and the hearing loss of her oldest child, Whitney’s grief was just as pronounced after receiving the news of her youngest child’s hearing loss. She felt guilty for grieving. As a person with hearing loss, as well as an advocate, she felt she should not feel sad. Rather, she felt she should respond with a sense of empowerment. Despite knowing all this, it still made the pathway to acceptance difficult.

Because Spagnola and her children have similar hearing losses, many of their accommodations are the same. For example, when they go to the grocery store together, they are all connected to Roger. Grocery stores can be quite noisy and reverberant. Roger allows them to stay connected and communicate while navigating the many different aisles.

During the COVID pandemic and switching to virtual learning and remote work, each family member selected their preferred Roger microphone to support virtual communication. Spagnola uses Roger Select for virtual work meetings. Her oldest child prefers using the Roger Touchscreen. Her youngest used the Multimedia Hub. They’re both back in the classroom now. Their mother is amazed that they’re beginning to understand how listening fatigue impacts them when Roger isn’t used.

Dream Job as a Phonak Employee With Hearing Loss

There is no stigma about hearing loss in the Spagnola house. They take care of each other. They remind each other why even mild hearing losses need hearing solutions. The children want to remain active throughout the day and not have a “tired brain” from all that listening effort. They also do not want to miss the soft speech sounds, such as the “s” at the end of the word “cookies.” Who wants to miss an extra cookie?

When asked about the extra cookie, Spagnola jokes, “My kids take after me, always wanting one more cookie. But in all honesty, hearing the full conversation is what we thrive on. It’s even more obvious after the last 18 months since COVID started. We’re a very extroverted family.” 

Spagnola says spending her career trying to help people like her kids and herself engage with life through cutting edge hearing technology is irreplaceable. “This is the stuff that professional dreams are made of,” she adds.