Catherine has a hearing loss due to recurring cholesteatoma. Her hearing loss has fluctuated dramatically through the years from mild/moderate to moderate/severe. It can differ frequently from ear to ear and from day to day.
Catherine told her classmates about her hearing loss when she received her first pair of hearing aids in the first grade. She used Oliver the Elephant, as seen in the video, to explain to her classmates how her hearing loss affected her and how her hearing aids worked.
“My story isn’t that different than Oliver’s. Just like him I learned that popcorn makes a popping sound and clocks tick and tock, a little bit later than everybody else did. Oliver was my way of introducing my pink and purple hearing aids to my first grade friends. When I read the book about him to my friends in class, everyone listened carefully and they just got it. Everyone understood what they (hearing aids) were, what they were for and that was that,” says Catherine in her graduation speech.
From first grade on, her classmates were aware about Catherine’s hearing loss. They supported her through small actions that had a big impact on Catherine’s life.
“…you might not have realized how important your actions were. But every time you were patient when I asked you to repeat yourself, and every time you put on the close captioning when we watched a movie in class. And every time you made an effort to walk on the side with my better hearing ear, you helped shaped me into who I am today,” Catherine says to her classmates.
Catherine’s hearing loss never held her back as she was the captain of the volleyball and track team, in addition to being the president of model united nations and co-president of student council. She graduated as valedictorian for the 2017 class, and will be attending the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania.
“I have never felt less capable of success because of my disability,” Catherine says.
Catherine will continue to break down stigmas of hearing loss and offers this advice to other deaf and hard of hearing people.
“Hearing loss may be part of who you are, but don’t let it define you. It’s easy to compare yourself with others and think that you’ll never be ‘that good’ at academics or sports. Don’t compare where you are right now to where someone else is — the mountain you have to climb to reach success might be steeper than theirs, but if you work hard, you will reach your goals. Be patient, be diligent, and trust the process,” she says.