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Johns Hopkins senior, with severe hearing loss, named a Rhodes Scholar

Johns Hopkins senior, with severe hearing loss, named a Rhodes Scholar
Johns Hopkins senior, with severe hearing loss, named a Rhodes Scholar 02:27

BALTIMORE - A Johns Hopkins University senior has been named a Rhodes Scholar. 

It is one of the most prestigious international awards a college student can receive, but she was also born with a birth defect diagnosing her with severe hearing loss.  

Her name is Alexandra Wong — she goes by "Zandy." She is a senior at Johns Hopkins University, studying Public Health and now is a Rhodes Scholar— who has a disability you can't see.

"I was born with severe hearing loss because of oval window atresia, which basically means one of the bones in the middle ear in the middle window to be deformed, and when sound goes in the ear, and in the middle ear, it kind of connects to a pathway of these three bones, and if that pathway is broken sound does not make it to the inner ear to be processed as sound," said Alexandra "Zandy" Wong a Johns Hopkins University senior. 

When she was 12 years old, she received an implant that changed her life. 

 "I got a cochlear baha sound implant which uses bone conduction to allow sound to bypass damage to the middle ear and be processed as sound by cochlear," said Wong.

Wong credits her journey with hearing loss and becoming a Rhodes Scholar to the technology that brought sound back into her life.

"To hear the sounds that people take for granted – like one sound I never heard before then was the sound of birds chirping," said Wong. 

She is one of 32 students in the nation to become Rhodes Scholar, something her family is proud of. 

"We were super super, super, excited when she won this award. Zandy is a very talented and amazing person and despite her having hearing loss she has succeeded in so many ways," said Hana Wong, Zandy's twin sister.

Zandy hopes her story encourages others with a disability and from an underrepresented background to take chances and dream. 

 "With my disability it wasn't going to limit who I could become and it could become such a positive thing to my identity and who and the journey I was on," said Zandy. 

Zandy sees this accomplishment  not as a win for herself, but instead a win for the hearing loss community.

As for what's next, Zandy told WJZ she plans to pursue her master's degree at Oxford University in 2024 in hopes of helping others with hearing loss. 

Wong is from Alexandria, Virginia. 

According to Johns Hopkins, the scholarships provide all expenses for two or three years of study at the University of Oxford in England. 

Wong plans to pursue two Master of Science degrees, one in Applied Digital Health and the other in Evidence-Based Social Intervention and Policy Evaluation.

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