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January 16, 2003

Alameda girl wins 'bionic' grant

From: Oakland Tribune, CA - 16 Jan 2003

By Susan McDonough, STAFF WRITER

ALAMEDA -- Lindsey Dolich has never had the luxury of ducking lazily into the back row of class or listening half-heartedly to friends.

Deaf since she was a toddler, Dolich, 19, had to work hard as a mainstream student at College Preparatory School in Oakland and often has to assert herself when she would have rather just slip anonymously through her teenage life.

"I don't want to stand out from the crowd, " Dolich says. "But I have to."

Dolich is one of three U.S. college students selected to receive a $12,000 scholarship from Cochlear Corp., an Australian maker of electronic hearing implants known as "bionic ears."

The Graem Clark scholarship, named for the Australian medical professor who was among the first to implant the devices into the human ear, is intended to encourage deaf students to attend college, said Amanda McLaren of Cochlear Corp., one of three manufacturers worldwide of the cochlear implant.

More than 43,000 people worldwide have received cochlear implants.

Dolich, who began losing her hearing at age three when she was diagnosed with "Enlarged Vestibular Aqueduct Syndrome" is among the first group of college students to receive the award. Selected from more than 20 other students, the winners were chosen for their academic achievements and for demonstrating a commitment to leadership and humanistic ideals, McLaren said.

Dolich, a freshman studying English literature at Haverford College outside Philadelphia, says she has done a lot to promote advocacy for kids with disabilities, part of the reason she thinks she was chosen.

In high school, she quickly organized a forum on disabilities when another student canceled. At the meeting, she openly asked friends and fellow students at her small school to stop saying "never mind" when she asked them to repeat things.

"I used to say 'what' every 10 seconds," she says in a clear, remarkably articulate voice. Since receiving a cochlear implant about a year ago, she says "I don't do that as much."

The surgery has improved her ability to hear and process words by as much as 80 percent, she says. With hearing aids, she understood only about 30 percent of what people said.

"I can talk on the phone now," she says happily.

Life at Haverford College is better with the implant, says Dolich.

Other U.S. recipients of the scholarship include Stanford student Sarah Dockery and Andrea Langhout, a University of Washington graduate student.

The two play college soccer and share a sweet sisterly bond, forged it seems from years of forced eye contact with each other.

Caryn, who has full hearing, recalls a time when both were high school freshmen. It was all most students could do just to introduce themselves, she says, but Lindsey had to tell the class she was deaf and ask the students to look her in the eye when they spoke.

That kind of repetitive challenge has developed Lindsey into a friendly, confident young woman. It's an image many people are surprised to find when they meet a deaf girl, she says.

"I think of myself as normal," she says.

Other U.S. recipients of the scholarship include Stanford student Sarah Dockery and Andrea Langhout, a University of Washington graduate student.

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