Matthew Argame was in college when he first recognized the power of sharing personal stories — even, or especially, the difficult ones. Now, he’s thriving as an advocate for people with disabilities.
At the end of his freshman year at CSU Long Beach, another student approached Matthew Argame. The young woman had seen someone writing captions for Argame during their “Intro to Political Science” class, and wanted to know more about it. Argame explained that he had hearing loss. To his surprise, the young woman told him she suspected she might, too.
That day, Argame recognized the power of sharing his story with others — and embraced his role as an advocate for people with disabilities. Since then, he has become an executive officer of the student government, pushed for the creation of a wellness commissioner at the university, organized an ongoing series of TEDx talks and presented at research conferences and Stanford Medicine X.
This spring, the JED Foundation honored Argame with their Student Voice of Mental Health award.
Argame, 21, wasn’t always open about his hearing loss. As a child growing up in Anaheim, his classmates — and even his teachers — teased him for mishearing things.
“I was in this world of ‘What’s going on? What’s wrong with me?’” he said.
In the third grade, an audiologist diagnosed him with hearing loss and gave him hearing aids. Argame initially thought those would make life better. But other kids tormented him, flicking his ears and teasing him. He stopped wearing them after just a week.
When he got to college, his audiologist pointed out research that showed that people who did not wear hearing aids were more susceptible to depression, isolation, social anxiety and dementia. Argame started to worry. Finally, he put the hearing aids back in. This time, things changed for the better.
Argame has lost a relative to suicide, a personal connection that has inspired his research into the interconnectedness between chronic disease and mental health. But his long-term interest remains in researching the impact of hearing loss on the brain.
Argame graduated last month, and is now applying to master’s programs in narrative medicine and to medical schools.
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