"She's taken the brave step to put herself out there to share her story, which will help so many people," Abigail Heringer says of Daisy Kent
Abigail Heringer was the first woman in Bachelor Nation history to use a cochlear implant, a small electronic device that delivers sound to people who are deaf or hard-of-hearing. Now the 28-year-old is sharing her advice with Daisy Kent, a contestant on Joey Graziadei's season of the show, which aired Jan. 22. Kent also wears a cochlear implant.
"I was excited to hear that the current season would have more representation for the hearing loss community," Heringer, who starred in Matt James' season in 2021, tells PEOPLE exclusively. "I know everyone has a different experience with hearing loss and cochlear implants so I'm interested in learning more about Daisy's story and for the conversations to continue on raising awareness for the deaf community."
Heringer, who was born deaf from a Connexin 26 mutation – the most common cause of autosomal recessive deafness worldwide – also adds that she'd come across Kent's platform on TikTok before she was announced as a contestant on the show.
Kent, 25, uses her social media presence to educate about living with Ménière's Disease, which causes dizzy spells known as vertigo, and hearing loss. "My first time hearing with a Cochlear implant," Kent captioned a TikTok video from April 2023 that went viral with 12.4 million views.
"I know she and I both have cochlear implants but have two very different stories so I'm excited to learn more about her journey with hearing loss," Heringer says. "The advice I would give her is to enjoy the experience and to know that her journey is hers alone."
She continues: "People will cast opinions, be ignorant with their comments or project their own experiences onto her and to just remember that everyone's path is different and to be proud that she's taken the brave step to put herself out there to share her story, which will help so many people."
Looking back at her time on the show, The Bachelor in Paradise alum, who's currently engaged to Noah Erb, adds that at the start, she was scared of how people would see her.
"I had watched the show prior and I knew that it was a huge opportunity but I wasn't sure how I wanted to handle my hearing loss on such a big platform," she says. "I was nervous about how the audience would receive my story and if they would cast judgment on me or my family for going the cochlear implant route."
"My journey with hearing loss was a private one for the most part growing up, so to open up that part of me to potentially be criticized was scary but people's kindness and willingness to learn blew me away and now it's a part of me I love talking about!" she continues.
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The Bachelor season 28 airs Mondays at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.
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