Jean-Paul Booyens

Business grad beats profound hearing loss

October 2, 2008

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In 2006, three years into a business administration degree, Jean-Paul Booyens experienced an extraordinary challenge.

Profoundly hard of hearing since birth, he underwent surgery for a cochlear implant to improve his ability to hear higher frequency sounds.

The result was a revelation—and a huge learning curve as he strove to make sense of a sudden cacophony of sounds he had never heard before.

"I had to go back to the basics," says Booyens, whose brain had to learn to make sense of the sounds and to separate them. He had to attend rehabilitation classes to learn to hear numerous unfamiliar speech sounds such as the soft sibilants, "s" and "f". "It made life difficult for a while," he says, "and then made it much better."

While Booyens takes his hearing loss in stride, it did make earning his degree more difficult, particularly during his first two semesters when he tried to rely on an oral interpreter and an FM radio-signal system that amplified lectures for his hearing aid.

Things improved when he learned it was possible to have a captioning stenographer to transcribe his professors’ lectures while he read the text on his laptop screen.

The cochlear implant didn’t eliminate his need for stenographers, the FM system or lip-reading, but it did help him to improve his speech—he even joined Toastmasters. He also discovered the world of music that is now one of his great joys.

Booyens didn’t find academic life difficult, beyond the mechanics of hearing, but establishing a social life was an issue until he joined the table-tennis club and the Accounting Student Association.

He was also involved in the Student Investment Advisory Service, which manages an SFU endowment fund.

Booyens joined SFU’s co-op education program, fulfilling all of the requirements and attending many job interviews that he says were good experience for his current search for an internship with a chartered accounting firm.

Despite all the obstacles he faced, Booyens maintained a grade-point average of 3.47 (out of a possible 4.3) and graduates with an honours degree in business administration.
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