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Stein '03 copes with hearing impairment during his first year at the University

A typical student's morning begins with the buzzing of an alarm clock or the blaring of a radio, but for Michael Stein '03, no alarm sounds at the appointed wakeup time. Rather, his sleep is disrupted by an electric device called a "bed-shaker."

Stein uses this alternative alarm not because he dislikes the cacophony of a traditional clock buzzer, but because he is hearing-impaired.

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Though not completely deaf, Stein — a Butler College resident — relies on reading lips to understand people's speech and wears a hearing aid to amplify sounds.

"I can hear sounds and recognize syllables, but a lot of sounds are the same. They overlap, and it's hard to tell them apart," said Stein, who has been hearing impaired his entire life.

Born at Princeton Medical Center, Stein lived for three years in Princeton before moving north to Maplewood, N.J.

Throughout elementary and high school, Stein found that his hearing-impairment was not a major setback in the classroom. "I just read the books," he said. "It never really mattered as much what the teachers were saying."

When Stein was accepted to the University, administrators asked if there were any special services they could provide for him. Stein only requested a note-taker.

"The University seemed to be very accessible," Stein said. "I've never really come upon a situation where I've needed the notes. I can get most everything from the books."

Special phone

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Aside from his bed-shaker, the only other special tool Stein uses is a phone service in which the caller speaks to an operator, who types to Stein. He then responds by speaking directly to the caller. "I really only use it to call my parents," Stein said.

Stein said interacting in social situations is one of the hardest parts of being hearing impaired because of the difficulty of reading more than one person's lips at once.

"Talking to one person is no problem," he said, "but if you're in a group of people, it's harder to understand."

Stein said, however, that students and faculty have been "pretty accepting."

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"My parents always emphasized that I fit in with other people, that I'm mainstream," he said. "I've never really identified with the deaf community, so I've never become involved with sign language. I've always kind of ignored it."

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