As a little kid, I taught myself how to do somersaults. I did them back and forth across the living room floor. My grandma would always be slightly on edge saying, “Don’t break something or hurt yourself!” I tried to practice vaulting over the couch and putting my feet over my head whenever I saw gymnastics on TV. My parents rightfully decided to put me in gymnastics when I was six years old, thus making me a gymnast with hearing loss. From then on, my tricks in the living room increased in difficulty.
As I began progressing in gymnastics, the skills I learned became more challenging. They would be challenging for any person, but they were even more so with behind-the-ear hearing aids. They always flopped out from behind my ears! To solve this problem, I started using double-sided tape to stick them to the sides of my head. It was effective for the most part. Sometimes when I got really sweaty at practice, they would unstick. I always made sure to have plenty of tape with me.
Unfortunately, one time they didn’t do their job. I was tumbling into a foam pit and the entire backside of my hearing aid (the part that contains the battery) completely snapped off and got lost in the foam pit. I was so embarrassed and couldn’t find it! My instinct was to play it off and just get out of the foam pit and forget about it. However, that little piece is worth thousands of dollars and I knew my parents would be upset if it was lost. One of my teammates ended up finding it. I just wanted to hide in that foam pit the entire time.
Being embarrassed at practice was one thing, but being embarrassed at a competition was another. I’ll never forget – I was at a big competition that had two floor exercises so two people could do routines at once. I was excited to do my routine and rock the judges’ socks off. The whole crowd was watching as I got down on the floor in my starting position and waited for the music to start… and it never did. Actually, it did, but I never heard it. Luckily, they let me start over after the girl on the other floor was finished with her routine. Though I felt disconcerted, it was showtime once my music started. My routine went well, and I was so proud afterwards!
The great thing gymnastics taught me was overcoming my fears through hard work. I was afraid to do a lot of skills in the gym. I was also afraid of being different because of my hearing aids. One time my coach told me to do 10 giants on the bars. I was petrified of doing these between the high bar and the low bar. She told me I couldn’t move on to the next event with my teammates until I did all 10. I stayed behind on the bars until my hands were bleeding. I kept working at it until I accomplished all 10 giants. My coach believed in me and with each giant I did, I started to believe in myself too.
“The great thing gymnastics taught me was overcoming my fears through hard work.”
It’s not easy growing up with a hearing loss. You fall down lots of times when you miss a funny joke or important information because you can’t hear. Sometimes talking on the phone or being in social situations is stressful. It’s easy to not want to get back up when life gets hard with this disability. But every time you get up and keep swinging on the bars that made your hands bleed or get back on the balance beam you got hurt on, you get stronger. Gymnastics taught me how to be courageous. It helped me learn to believe in myself and my hearing loss.
Has a sport helped you with your hearing loss?