WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Derby Native Casey Combs lost her hearing at the age of 4, and now, she is helping deaf patients in Wichita.

Combs was the first deaf medical student to graduate from the University of Kansas, and now she is working as a Clinical Audiologist in Wichita at Mid-Kansas Ear, Nose & Throat Associates.

She began to lose her hearing at 3 years old after getting a virus, and by the age of 4, she lost her hearing completely.

Combs underwent her first cochlear implant surgery as a toddler when the procedure was still very new. She had her second implant when she was a teenager when the procedure showed reduced health risks.

“The first surgery I had when I was 4, and the second one I had was when I was 17,” said Casey Combs, Clinical Audiologist. “It changed my life drastically.”

Combs says within a year of having her first surgery she was able to read, write and communicate effectively. At 17, she got her second processor, which helped her hear in noisier environments.

She says she realized she wanted to become an audiologist when she was in high school after visiting her audiology doctor who helped her hear well again.

“I love being able to connect with that person on a personal level, being able to alleviate some of the fears that they’ve had, maybe some uncertainties, especially when it comes to the surgery, and you know what they’re getting themselves into with cochlear implant technology,” said Combs.

Combs says there are a lot of misconceptions about cochlear implant technology, she wants people to know that it’s a difficult journey because it’s not like hearing aids.

“They think that they put the processors on and they can hear, it’s just very hard work, you have to be willing to work with your audiologist and communicate with them about some of the issues you want resolved,” said Combs. “Be very patient, it will come, it takes time, but it will get there.”