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High school valedictorian gives inspiring speech about achieving success with hearing loss

Catherine Parr, 2017 Valedictorian of Haldane High School, gives an inspiring speech about how small acts of kindness and support from her classmates, faculty and family, led to achieving great success with hearing loss.

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.

Explaining hearing loss at school

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.

Small actions can make a big difference 

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.

“…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’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.

“I have never felt less capable of success because of my disability,”

She is planning on bringing both her FM system and wireless streamer to college to take on another four years of thriving in school. 

Read more: 7 Tips for going Back to School with Hearing Loss

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.

Interested in Oliver the Elephant? Phonak now has Leo the Lion! He is great for explaining hearing loss to children. Learn more Leo here!

Kirsten Brackett
Kirsten is 23-years-old and originally from Denver, CO, but currently lives outside of Chicago, IL. She has a moderate hearing loss and currently wears Phonak Audéo B-R rechargeable hearing aids.
Outside of working for Phonak, she can be found planning her next trip, exploring the city of Chicago, trying out new recipes in her kitchen, hiking or doing yoga. She loves learning about different cultures and languages, and studies Arabic, American Sign Language and French.

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