Faces Behind the Screen: Alanna Kilroy

Alanna faces her body toward a beach, while wearing a Boston University sweater

Alanna Kilroy is originally from Massachusetts. She currently works at Boston Consulting Group as a Global Finance Operations Associate. Alanna was born profoundly deaf.

In her free time, she loves to travel and explore different cultures, improve her film photography skills, hang out with friends, and explore vegetarian restaurants around the Boston area. 

Part One

Let’s get to know more about your educational and professional background. Where did you go to university and what did you study?

I went to Boston University (BU) and I studied at the Questrom School of Business. I majored in business administration and I concentrated in finance and business law. I use my finance background at Boston Consulting Group, where I work as a Global Finance Operations Associate. My role there includes helping out the international controllers and alternate business models to manage the finance operations of the local offices. 

When I was a freshman at BU, I was actually a film and TV major. I thought I wanted to go down a more creative route, like produce stories and make movies. I found out that I was more of a person who loves to be organized and get things done fast. With the creative world, it’s a little more slow-paced. I guess I was looking for something that was consistent – so I landed in the business school. I knew I was really good at organization, communication, and working in teams. 

When did you become deaf? Do you identify as d/Deaf or hard of hearing?

I identify as deaf, with a lower-case “d”. I was born with severe to profound hearing loss in both ears. My parents found out when I was nine months old. They also found out that I had no cochleas in either of my ears. I have what’s called common cavities. 

Back in 1995 or 1996, cochlear implants were so new. Because I had a tiny bit of hearing but no cochleas, there were no doctors were willing to give me cochlear implants at the time. Nobody across the U.S. would do it because they just didn’t think it was possible for me. It wasn’t until my parents met a doctor named Dr. Noel Cohen, who worked at NYU in New York City, that I could get cochlear implants.

I didn’t get the implants until I became profoundly deaf in 2000 since it would destroy the rest of my hearing. I got my first implant the week before I turned 5 and the second one 2 weeks before Christmas in 2004. 

the difference between lower-case and upper-case deaf. Lower-case "d" refers to the medical condition of having hearing loss. They most likely don't sign and communicate orally. Upper case "D" refers to people who identify as culturally deaf and are actively engaged with the deaf community. they most likely use sign language.

What was your experience like prior to getting cochlear implants?

Before I got cochlear implants, I had hearing aids. I remember having them, but I don’t remember how much hearing I had at the time. 

I was completely oral growing up. I didn’t start learning sign language until my senior year of high school, when I developed an interest in it. As I got older, I started meeting more people in the deaf community who signed and wanted to communicate with them as well.

Everyone in my family spoke to me orally. Growing up, I was the only deaf student at my elementary, middle, and high school. I was essentially the first deaf person that most people met. 

What was your experience like being the only deaf student in school?

It was a pretty unique experience for me at school. I knew I was different. I had to carry around a speaker box because my teacher used a microphone to speak with me. Technology has obviously evolved since then. 

I eventually received a better system that connected directly to my cochlear implants. 

In middle school, I started to have someone sit next to me with a computer and I could see everything on the screen that was being said in the classroom. I could better participate in discussions. 

When I moved on to high school, I started taking more advanced classes like honors and AP courses. I got CART, which stands for Communication Access Real-Time Translation, and it’s essentially someone typing everything that is said in the classroom verbatim. I was getting a live transcript on the computer screen that was placed on my desk. 

I feel like it kind of affected me socially because when you see someone who has a computer placed next to them with a screen saying a bunch of different things, people can get intimidated by that. They’re not sure what to say and how to approach it. 

Part Two Coming Soon!

Faces Behind the Screen would like to thank Alanna Kilroy for participating in our storytelling project. If you’re interested in sharing your story with us, fill out our nomination form.

Pictures of four people who were interviewed for the Faces Behind the Screen project

Faces Behind the Screen is a storytelling project focusing on members of the Deaf and hard of hearing community.

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