When a nine-year-old fourth grader in Wisconsin experienced sudden hearing loss, she wrote a book about it.
The news is mostly gloom and doom and despair every time I turn on the TV, especially in 2020. When my grandpa called me and told me to turn on the news in December, I wasn’t sure what to expect.
“There’s a girl who is going to be on the news and she has a hearing loss, just like you, although hers was sudden and severe,” he said.
I watched the segment and nine-year-old Demii Wright of Madison, Wisconsin appeared on the screen. I held back tears as she talked about her experience with sudden hearing loss and being bullied by her classmates about her speech. To help cope with her feelings, Demii’s mom suggested that she write them down in a journal. Sure, this was another sad story on the news, I thought.
Then I was amazed when she showed the book she wrote about her journey. My jaw dropped. A nine-year-old who not only dealt with sudden hearing loss but became an author with a published book!
I immediately hopped on Facebook to find Demii’s mom Danyelle, so I could message her and tell her how Demii’s story touched me. As a hard-of-hearing individual myself who also struggled to feel comfortable at school, I had to tell her that I’d be here if Demii ever wanted to talk.
Just a few days later, I got a response from her. She had shared my message with Demii and they would love to chat. I also bought and read Demii’s book so I could understand her story a little bit more prior to talking to her.
As a very young child, Demii experienced frequent ear infections, which eventually escalated to nosebleeds and struggling to breathe at night. One day she woke up with ringing in her ear. By the time she was on the way to see the doctor, she couldn’t hear out of it anymore. (You will have to read the book to get the full story!)
According to Danyelle, it took Demii six months from start to finish to write her book. It’s a 28-page memoir published through “Motivational MD” by Dr. Jasmine Zapata, and it is available for purchase on Amazon. It’s a great read for people of all ages. At the back, there are talking points for parents to help their children process the story. This is also useful for schools to use as a framework to teach children about hearing loss.
When I called Danyelle a few days later, one of the first things she told me was that they were grateful that I reached out. Her mother said her Facebook message inbox had blown up since the news segment aired.
“It’s been such a positive experience for Demii,” she said. “It’s been nothing but warm responses from everyone. We are in the process of starting a Facebook page for Demii now. I think the most important thing out of all of this is that Demii has shown just how resilient she is.”
“… Demii has shown just how resilient she is.”
Throughout everything Demii has been through with her sudden hearing loss, she has remained a bright student in school who does gymnastics, dance, and cheerleading in her free time. She also plays the violin and piano. In the future, she says she wants to go to college to become an educator or an astronaut.
I have no doubt that Demii will accomplish anything she sets her mind to. How many people do you know that published a book when they were nine years old?! I was eager to talk to Demii when she got on the phone to hear firsthand what the whole experience was like for her.
Read more: 6 children’s books about hearing loss
HLM: What kind of hearing aid do you have? Do you use any accessories with it?
Demii: I have a Phonak Sky hearing aid that is sky blue with a swirl. I have a backpack kit for the hearing aid and stickers to decorate it. It plugs into the wall to charge, [and] connects with anything that has Bluetooth, like my computer and my phone. It amplifies the sound all around me and the volume can be adjusted.
HLM: Are you doing virtual schooling? Is virtual school hard for you?
Demii: Yes, we are doing virtual schooling and I really like it. I can hear the teacher very well, but if I have computer or Internet connection issues, it can be hard to hear.
HLM: How is school for you now that you have a hearing aid?
Demii: School is way easier with a hearing aid. It was hard being in the hallways when everyone around you is talking. Working by yourself in the classroom is easier because it’s a lot quieter.
HLM: In your book, you talk about how your mom did a presentation for your classmates about your hearing loss. Did that help your classmates understand what you were going through? Were you still asked about your hearing aid/speech after that? Did they treat you differently?
Demii: They [treated] me way more differently after that. They used to correct the way I said things in a rude way and I would come home crying. Now they try to correct me in a nicer way.
HLM: Have you had to do any speech therapy?
Demii: Yes, I do speech and language therapy and I love it.
HLM: You also mention in the book that you like doing gymnastics, cheerleading, and dance. Are there any challenges you face when you are doing these activities?
Demii: Yeah, they are usually big competitions so the music is really loud. But then I remembered, I can turn down the volume of my hearing aid! Also, sometimes the back of the hearing aid comes out when I do cartwheels and handstands.
HLM: Did they ever figure out why your hearing loss came on so suddenly? If not, does it bother you that no one knows why?
Demii: Scientists are still trying to figure it out. It does bother me that they don’t know why. They did brain scans and didn’t find anything. They just gave me medicine to help with the symptoms.
HLM: What inspired the title of your book?
Danyelle: Well, we talked to a branding person on a Zoom call for two hours. There were other authors present during the meeting. We had suggested titling the book, Demii’s Journey Through Loss, but the authors said her story was too powerful for that. They suggested Can You Hear Me Now? as the title for her book.
Personally, I think the title is quite fitting considering Demii had been listening to countless doctors, audiologists, and peers all this time. The phrase, “Can you hear me now?” comes up a lot when people are talking to a hard of hearing person. However, Demii’s book flips this script. She finally gets to be the one asking the question, “Can you hear me now?”