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skier with hearing loss
Professional skier and Phonak hEARo Robin Gillon had a tough childhood. He had to deal with the pressures of being a kid with hearing loss. It wasn’t until he discovered skiing that he felt free to be himself. 

Throughout his career, Gillon has used his platform to shed light on the topic of hearing loss. He has a mission to “fight the stigma and spread the stoke.” He does this by living a life pushing his personal limits and having fun. In his latest film, “What It’s Like,” Gillon shares how his ski community allowed him to develop as a skier and find confidence within himself.

Against All Odds – Becoming a Skier with Hearing Loss

Growing up in a small town in Switzerland, Robin Gillon found solace in the mountains at a young age. He was bullied, isolated, and treated differently as a kid. The mountains became a place where he felt free to express himself through nonverbal communication in the form of skiing.

“The stigmas around hearing loss are awful,” he says. “People make all sorts of assumptions of things we cannot do.”

When he was 16-years-old, he decided to chase his dream of becoming a professional skier. At first, he says, he was unsure about himself, because there weren’t any other deaf skiers or role models to look up to.

“I never had someone to look up to as there weren’t any cool deaf/hard of hearing individuals being shown to the big public when I grew up,” he says. “No athlete, actors, astronauts or whatever seemed to be like me. All were hearing individuals. The lack of representation was severe and extremely unexciting which gave me very little hope for my own future.”

Still, he pursued his passion, struggling with communication by lipreading and reading facial expressions in order to make everyday decisions. Now, he’s one of the best skiers in his country. Over the years, he has represented Switzerland fiercely at some of the toughest competitions and highest stages in the world. At the same time, Gillon graduated with a double major in finance and management at university in his fourth language (English) with a 80-90 percent hearing loss.

“I love to prove the haters wrong,” he says. “There is nothing more satisfying than to showcase how I have a competitive advantage because I’m used to fighting harder to get what I want.”

“I love to prove the haters wrong…There is nothing more satisfying than to showcase how I have a competitive advantage because I’m used to fighting harder to get what I want.”

Read more: Professional skier Robin Gillon shares his hearing loss journey

Skiing with Hearing Loss

Competing as a professional skier is a challenge. Competing as a professional skier with hearing loss is an entirely different experience that introduces unimaginable complexities. Throughout his skiing career, Gillon was constantly asked what it’s like to hear what he hears. This common question is what inspired his latest film, presented by his hearing aid brand, Phonak.

“I kept getting the same question, “What’s it like? What’s it like to be you?” Hence, we went back to work and responded with our newest film, “What It’s Like,” where we walk you through my experience in my everyday life as a professional skier and athlete with a sound designer and epic cinematography,” Gillon says.

In the film, Gillon breaks down what it’s like to ski with hearing loss. Using his Phonak Roger On wireless microphone and Phonak Virto Paradise hearing aids, he listens as a friend asks him the common question, followed by, “I can’t imagine being deaf.”

Gillon goes on to explain how visual cues of the environment, along with the feel of the wind, the stomp of the landing, and the vibrations of the metal rail in his core, give him that experience he’s become enthralled by all these years. In the film, he also gets to show off his skills as the documentary goes onto the snow and shows some never-been-done-before stunts.

Read more: How a little black hearing aid changed skier Robin Gillon’s life

Watch: “What It’s Like”

Pursing his Passion for a Cause

Gillon has now pursued skiing professionally and competed as one of the top 40 skiers in the world. He has competed on some of skiing’s biggest stages. His skiing accolades include the Dutch champion in Slopestyle and Big Air, 3x Top 40 AFP overall ranking, 2x Top 30, FIS overall ranking, 2x World Championship starts, 13 World Cup starts, 2x World Championship starts, 1x Junior World start, consistent Top 5 Europa Cup Ranking, and 2x Swiss-French Champion.

He has also been featured in Red Bull, Freeskier Magazine,, Reverse Magazine, The Salt Lake Tribune, and many local presses. In addition, he has won 13 international awards for his short film – “Sound of Silence,” which was released in 2018. In that film, his parents share their experience raising a child with hearing loss and witnessing the bullying that he endured. 

“‘Sound of Silence’ is a documentary about my story growing up severely deaf and how skiing helped me become the person that I am today,” he says.

It’s important that Gillon continues to share his story, he adds. Disclosing some of his darkest secrets for the world allows him to fight the stigmas around hearing loss.

“I will forever continue fighting the stigma and educating people about hearing loss,” he says. “Most importantly, I would like to start to give back to the deaf/HOH community by [collaborating with] Hearing Like Me and [Sonova’s Hear the World Foundation] to help kids around the world to have resources to hearing solutions.”

“I will forever continue fighting the stigma and educating people about hearing loss.”

Author Details
The HearingLikeMe editorial team includes Jill Blocker von Bueren and Lisa Goldstein.