My hearing journey started in 1978 and has been a dramatic two-act play. For more than 30 years I did not think about my hearing loss. Rather, I kept it in the back of my thoughts.
In fact, I tried hard and acted as if I did not think about it. Survival was simply trying to make life as “normal” as I could and not let on. Part of that was the dearth of resources and organizations back then that were not connected to the medical field and with whom I could connect. Part of it was a willful disregard of the hearing loss community even as it grew into prominence and importance for all of us. It took me many years to consider myself part of it.
All that changed for the good in 2009.
My audiologist Laurie Duffy put me into my first digital hearing aid in 2009. For the first time in 30+ years I heard new frequencies that I had assumed had been lost forever. The aid had programs and settings that at gave me control over my hearing experience and opened up the audio spectrum in such a way that led me to believe that I might be able to rediscover music again.
“For the first time in 30+ years I heard new frequencies that I had assumed had been lost forever.”
Laurie introduced me to Richard Reed, a local musician who more than a decade before lost his hearing overnight to an ototoxic drug. At the time he was enjoying a successful music career as a keyboard player in a popular touring band. His music days had ended. For more than a decade he sought relief through hearing aids without success and finally settled on a cochlear implant. Upon receiving it he was sure he would never hear music well enough to play again – much less enjoy listening to it.
Richard then began working with Geoff Plant, a Hearing Rehabilitation Specialist in Boston. Geoff helped Richard improve both his speech and music hearing. Today Richard is back playing with his band and conducts seminars in the US and Europe to assist CI users to better enjoy music.
Read more: A Conversation with my Hearing Rehabilitation Specialist
Richard introduced me to Geoff, who told me based on my hearing and skills, that he believed I might get back to music and that hearing rehab and focused listening would help. He was right. I continue to work with Geoff and will going forward. As I follow his instructions, my hearing experience strengthens each time we meet.
I was also connected to Dr. Brian Fligor, then head of audiology at Children’s Hospital in Boston. A musician himself, he started the Musicians Hearing Clinic and works with musicians with hearing loss. He provided the next critical piece for me: an ear monitor set that allows me to hear what I need to hear both in the studio and in live performances, as I cannot simply use headphones. The customized ear monitors include an analog hearing aid for my right ear through which I am able to receive the music feed and microphones in both the left and right ear that allow me to hear myself and ambient sound.
Read more: How Hearing Rehabilitation Can Help Deaf Musicians
Then there are the many musicians with hearing losses of every kind and degree who have, despite great challenges, continued or found their way back to music out of their deep love, talent and an unquenchable passion to hear it, play it, sing it, and enjoy it – whatever it takes. They inspire me daily.
In 2015, I began performing live again in selected house concerts hosted by friends to test my hearing, my tech and various soundscapes. I began connecting more socially with the hearing loss community through memberships or activities with the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) and the New York, Boston and Rhode Island state offices. I also became a member of the Association of Adult Musicians with Hearing Loss (AAMHL) with whom I performed in an open mic night with 13 other musicians at the HLAA national convention in Washington DC.
In 2016, I began speaking about my journey at libraries, clubs and other venues. I kicked off the New England Walk for Hearing by singing “America the Beautiful” and will again this coming October.
And in 2017, I returned to the studio to begin making new recordings for the first time in more than 40 years.
I’m not sure that I can express the full force of my gratitude to my many guides, mentors and special people whom I discovered and who have assisted me in so many ways when I came out from hiding in 2009. The best part of all of this is that they will continue to be by my side as I sail into whatever is next on my hearing journey.
Make your own Thank-You card to share with the special people in your life, at 70.Phonak.com.