I Make $54,000 As A Legal Assistant — & I’m Hearing Impaired

In our series Salary Stories, women with long-term career experience open up about the most intimate details of their jobs: compensation. It’s an honest look at how real people navigate the complicated world of negotiating, raises, promotions, and job loss, with the hope it will give young women more insight into how to advocate for themselves — and maybe take a few risks along the way.
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Age: 25
Current Location: Austin, Texas
Current Industry & Title: Law, Legal Assistant
Starting Salary: $10,400
Current Salary: $54,000
Number Of Years Employed: 9
Biggest Salary Jump: $22,000 in 2016, from $32,000 to $54,000
Biggest Salary Drop: None
Biggest Salary Negotiation Regret: "The first time I asked for a raise, I made it seem like it would be a nice thing for them to do for me, when in reality, I needed a raise because I could not continue to ask for help with my expenses from my parents in good conscience. I made the mistake of agreeing to a very small raise, instead of sticking up for what I was worth and finding a new job. When I did finally quit, I realised very quickly that I was way underpaid and a really hard worker, because immediately after beginning my search for a new position, I had several opportunities to choose from. My fear of not being good enough cost me financially."
Best Salary-Related Advice: "The more you tell yourself 'I can't,' the more you believe it. If you tell yourself, 'I'm the best fit for this job, and here is why,' it will translate to the employer and they will likely agree. If you don't have a degree, but you do have equivalent experience in the field, apply for the job! You have no clue how many applicants have the degree and zero experience. Maybe they just don't realise you are actually perfect for what they need, degree or not."
Talk a bit about being hearing impaired and how it affects daily life for you.
"I was born with moderate hearing loss in both ears. My parents found out when I was pretty young because, as they tell it, I was just 'the happiest baby and slept through anything.' I can read lips — the last time I was officially tested, I read lips at a 98% accuracy with no sound spoken; it's probably around 70% accurate now. My parents absolutely love to test this skill at loud restaurants, and my boyfriend calls me his little spy. LOL.
"I had worn digital hearing aids since I was about eight years old, on and off. I really hated them as a kid. Other kids teased me. I spent a lot of mornings wearing them and took them out right after my parents dropped me off. I just didn't want to be different.
"When my dad saw on Dr. Phil the Lyric hearing aid, he came to me in tears, the first and one of the only times I ever saw my dad cry. When I got them, suddenly nobody knew I couldn't hear, because all of a sudden I could. I cried the first time I heard a clock tick, the first time I turned my shower on and heard the water come out. I could suddenly hear the words to all my favourite songs and go hang out with my friends and really be the version of myself I had always wanted to be in my mind. I started to figure out who I was. I was naive as hell, but confident for the first time in my life. With that confidence, I started my first job.
"Now my hearing loss affects me most when I do not have my hearing aids in, which, fortunately, is rare. These are analog rather than digital and are fitted deep in my ears by my audiologist every three months (that is about how long the battery lasts). I can shower with them, work out and sweat, but I cannot go completely under water with them. I chose these hearing aids because they are the only ones that don't make my entire life sound like it's coming through a cheap microphone, and they are the only hearing aids that truly nobody can see. They gave me the power to make my disability as invisible and insignificant to my identity as I had always felt it was.
"So I keep paying $3,500 a year for them, every year, with no help from insurance after I turned 23 (hearing aids are not covered by most insurance providers). I could buy digital hearing aids, like what I wore sometimes as a kid, for $6K-$7K and wear them for five years, saving me roughly $15K or more, but I can't go back after hearing the world the way I always knew it should be."