Mom finds hearing loss support for her son on Instagram
April 26, 2018
hearing aids older adults
Study: Hearing aids may prevent hospital visits for older adults
May 1, 2018

Hearing waves crash for the first time inspires Caribbean native to help others hear

After having grown up on an island with hearing loss, Cecilia James heard the sound of waves crashing for the first time in her life while wearing a Phonak hearing aid. 

Her newfound hearing gave her confidence and motivation, which she used to start her own nonprofit, I Hear You Inc., to help children with disabilities.

Cecilia’s hearing journey started back when she was seventeen years old her and her family had just migrated from the Carribean Island Grenada to Toronto, Canada. 

It was then that her family started suspecting her hearing loss. Her family noticed that she would listen to the T.V. at a high volume and had trouble hearing in noisy environments with large groups of people. She moved to Brooklyn, New York where her parents took her to her physician who then referred her to an ENT and audiologist in New Jersey. There she was diagnosed with a single-sided hearing loss.

Cecilia mentions that even though she lived her entire childhood with a hearing loss, she never realized that she was missing sounds and conversations. Finding out she has a single-sided hearing loss came as a surprise to her. 

She was fit with her first pair of hearing aids when she was eighteen years old. At first, she didn’t wear them much. She felt like it didn’t make much of a difference in her hearing. This continued on until she received her first pair of Phonak hearing aid four years ago.

Getting her first pair of Phonak hearing aids

Cecilia discovered Phonak hearing aid, after hearing positive feedback about the technology. She worked hard and saved her money to buy her Phonak Digital Brio hearing aid. Immediately she saw a difference in her hearing. 

When she wore these hearing aids, it was the first time that she could hear in many situations. For example, when she was at work, she could hear her coworkers talking in the cubicle in front of her, which she had never heard before. Her hearing aid also helped her in group settings. Previously, she relied on lip reading, but her hearing aid changed that.

“It was bittersweet and quite emotional,” Cecilia recalls.

She finally realized how much she had been missing due to her hearing loss. Her hearing aids opened up her world to new sounds. This included being able to hear the stream of water in a river and the waves at the beach.

“I realized that most of my life, I missed the details of a running stream, the waves of the beaches I frequent in Grenada and other countries,” Cecilia explains.

“I realized that most of my life, I missed the details of a running stream, the waves of the beaches I frequent in Grenada and other countries.”

Read more: Why I decided to wear my hearing aids

She described how hearing new sounds gave her a sense of hope and provided inspiration.

“I immediately began to have big dreams and hope,” says Cecilia. “I had the desire, and still, do, to do bigger things for myself and for children and their parents who need this education that early intervention, identification, and solutions are essential…Phonak changed my life, gave me confidence and allowed me to live life to the fullest potential.”

“Phonak changed my life, gave me confidence and allowed me to live life to the fullest potential.”

She now loves to wear her hearing aid and is so grateful for the sounds they have brought to her life. 

help others hear

Using her experience for the greater good

Cecilia is the founder and executive director of the nonprofit I Hear You Inc. The mission of the nonprofit is “to establish and maintain a comprehensive network of support services for children who are in need of hearing loss intervention in Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique in the Caribbean. The gift of hearing, speech, language, equal opportunities, and improved quality of life are all inclusive in this mission, for children who are Deaf, Deaf/blind, and hard of hearing.”

help others hear

She founded this nonprofit due to her experience with a late hearing loss diagnosis and being an employee with a disability in the workplace. 

In her previous job, she experienced discrimination due to her hearing loss and speech. She was treated differently and told that she could not have direct communication with the company’s clients due to the lisp she has in her speech. Her credentials and experience were disregarded and decisions were made based off of her disability. 

This impacted her and she wanted to prevent this from happening to other people. 

“I do not want a single child go through what I experienced in the real world,” says Cecilia. “I do not want a single child not having the opportunity to be who he or she wants to be.  I do not want another child feeling like there is no hope. I want to give the gift of hearing, language, and speech.”

“I do not want another child feeling like there is no hope. I want to give the gift of hearing, language, and speech.”

She also wants parents of children with hearing loss to have access to early intervention education and celebrate the uniqueness of their child.

“I have hope for children in the Caribbean, other developing countries and rural areas within the US,” Cecilia says. 

It is also important to Cecilia that to spread awareness and educate businesses about how to properly accommodate people with disabilities and end stigmas that are present. 

She plans on expanding her nonprofit throughout the Carribean spreading hearing loss awareness.

“It is the gift of sound that makes a wealth of difference,” she says. “It is very important to become assertive with your hearing loss in order to accept the outcome.”

Keep up with Cecilia and I Hear You Inc. on Instagram