VALDOSTA, Ga. (WTXL) — The Valdosta State University student is not your ordinary freshman. She's Miss Georgia Teen USA and a voice for others with hearing challenges.
Shayla remembers the very first time she wore a hearing aid. She was 3-years old.
"It was the moment she turned them on and I could hear for the first time," Shayla said. "I could hear like footsteps and pieces of paper rubbing together where I couldn't before."
"Hearing impairment has kind of a stigma around it that you can't do certain things if you have this disability or that disability. So I like to put it it's not a disability, it's an ability because you can do those things."
Wearing masks during this pandemic has made it more difficult for people with hearing impairments to understand conversations.
"So the new hearing aid she's getting are excellent in terms of sound quality and clarity for speech," Dr. Jenny Carroll at Doctors Hearing Center in Valdosta told us.
One of the reasons Shayla was gifted a new and more advanced hearing aid from Starkey is for all she's doing to break the stigma around hearing impairment.
"They can also help her when she's trying to connect with loved ones whether that's behind masks or socially distance," Dr. Kate Marr, Audiologist with Starkey said.
For children who face similar hearing challenges, Shayla has this message:
"I know that there are gonna be times where things might be challenging but you just have to push through them and I promise there is a light at the end of the tunnel."