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Orka's Co-Founder & CCO Xinke Liu: Taking charge of your hearing loss

Written by OrkaMar 01, 2024 - 5 min read

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This year's World Hearing Day, March 3rd, 2024, focuses on overcoming the challenges posed by societal misperceptions and stigmatizing mindsets through awareness-raising and information-sharing. In the spirit of World Hearing Day and Orka's empowering campaign, "You are full of possibilities," we had the chance to sit down with Xinke Liu, Co-Founder and Chief Communications Officer at Orka, for a conversation.

Since co-founding Orka in Silicon Valley in 2019, Xinke Liu and the team have been on a mission to empower people with hearing loss to communicate freely and engage fully in life's significant moments. Xinke is a person of many facets—enthusiastic, determined, a sports lover, and an entrepreneur. But one thing that might not immediately come to people's mind is that she's been navigating life with severe hearing loss since her teenage years.

After her first hearing test at the age of 15, Xinke was diagnosed with profoundly severe hearing loss in the left ear and severe hearing loss in the right ear. Like many, Xinke believed that there were many ways to compensate for her hearing loss. After all, it didn't cause her physical pain, and she could still navigate her daily tasks.

She filled the silence with lip-reading, a skill that served her well until she moved to the United States for her studies. In this new world, English—the language that wasn't her mother tongue—became her primary mode of communication, and lip reading was no longer reliable.

"When you can't communicate with people, you would start telling yourself lies. At school, I was isolating myself and saying 'Oh, I'm an introvert, and I like being on my own,"' but that's not true. It's just a fat lie I liked to tell myself," Xinke had put herself in a box, limiting herself to only the things she thought she could do.

7 years after her first hearing loss diagnosis, Xinke got her first cochlear implant (CI). The world around her, once muffled and distant, burst into life with sound. She still vividly remembers the first time she walked out of the doctor's office with CI:" Then magic happened. I activated my CI for the first time and took a taxi. Suddenly, I noticed the advertisements in the taxi playing, and I was thrilled! I started talking to the taxi driver about this 'magic' thing that just happened."

"I have to say, even though my personality is like accepting everything that happens to me, I did regret that I waited so long before having my first CI surgery," Xinke confessed.

Xinke embraced her new world of sound with an open heart and a curious mind, and she is now a sports enthusiast who never shies away from new challenges: whether it's skiing down snowy slopes, riding a wakeboard, or galloping on horseback, Xinke takes on each adventure with the same zest.

"I get asked questions about my cochlear implants all the time," Xinke says with a smile, " like 'Do you wear your CI while skiing? What about surfing? And do you have to take it off at airport security?' I understand the curiosity about things you don't usually come across, and I know that some hearing aid or CI users can feel anxious about these things, too. But honestly, my experience has shown me that it's not as complicated as it might seem."

For Xinke, it's all about personal comfort: "If you feel like wearing your hearing aids or CI while skiing, go for it. If not, that's fine too. Personally, I always wear my CI when hitting the slopes. I make sure to secure it with a headband because, let's face it, losing it would be a disaster. Sometimes it can be tricky fitting it under a ski helmet, so I just get a bigger helmet. I will say though, my helmet has a big 'XL' on it. My brother laughed at it so hard."

"When I do wake surfing, well, I can't wear my CI. It does create issues when you're trying to understand the surfing instructor. But I just ask him to get a bit more creative in how he teaches—maybe use more body language. Honestly, skipping the CI for wake surfing? Does it really impact your performance? Not at all! "

"I want to emphasize that it's not just about 'accepting hearing loss' as a concept. Step one is to truly grasp that hearing loss is totally normal, and can happen to anyone. I believe a better approach than just trying to 'accept hearing loss' is realizing that even if you do have hearing loss, it's not as bad as you might have imagined in your head. There are still endless possibilities for what you can achieve."

Xinke has a motto: "I always say: 'Wear the clothes, don't let the clothes wear you.' It's the same with hearing devices—they're just tools. You shouldn't let them take over your life or who you are."

World Hearing Day 2024
You are full of possibilities.

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All content and information on this website is for informal and educational purposes only, nothing contained herein shall constitute medical advice, and does not establish any patient-client relationship by your use and access of this blog.
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