On the road, we met up with the Munoz and Putz families, who are both part of the “Phonak hEARo” program. The program is open to anyone, and gives people with hearing loss a platform to share their stories.
Phonak hEARo Julian is 7 years old and his mom, Jen, shares his story through her photography on Instagram. Karen is a deaf mom, author and barefoot water skier who write blogs for HearingLikeMe.com, and is sponsored by Phonak in her water skiing competitions. Phonak hEARos embody the spirit and purpose of HearingLikeMe.com as an online community for people with hearing loss in their own, unique ways.
Prior to meeting the Munoz family, I had talked to Jen through Instagram. Whenever I thought of Jen, I automatically thought of her profile picture, her with a camera, and her username @myorganizedchaos. I can picture what her kids look like, I have a sense of how her style is through her photography and I can feel her kindness through the words we have exchanged through direct messages on Instagram. It is incredible to think about how the relationship between Phonak and this family all started through Instagram.
Meeting up with the Munoz family confirmed the preconceived image I already had of them and made the connection between us (our team) grow even stronger. It was amazing to see Jen quote D.J., when he talks about not letting hearing loss define him, to her son Julian. She and her husband do not place any limits on their son. They encourage him to be a musician regardless of his disabilities, always focusing on his abilities.
Karen Putz is a great inspiration as well. When she and D.J. first met, she took the time to talk about her hearing loss. She explained to D.J. how much she could hear and how she best communicates. Although D.J. and Karen are both considered deaf with their hearing losses, they still both hear differently. D.J. communicates best with his hearing aids, whereas Karen communicates best when using sign language. This just shows the diversity of hearing loss within the hearing loss community and why it is important to recognize others differences.
“This just shows the diversity of hearing loss within the hearing loss community and why it is important to recognize others differences.”
They also talked about Karen’s most recent book. D.J. asked Karen to explain a key point from her book, “Unwrapping your Passion.”
“Passion is a gift,” she says. “It’s within all of us, and we just have to unwrap it. It’s within us and we may say, ‘Oh I don’t really have a passion. That really means it’s an indication that you need to change something in your life to unwrap that gift. You know, you need to learn more, you need to be around different people, you need to do something outside of your comfort zone, it means all of that, it’s within us.”
“Passion is a gift. It’s within all of us, and we just have to unwrap it.”
Her message really stuck with me because I feel that becoming involved with the HearingLikeMe community and being surrounded by inspirational people every day has led me to find another passion of mine in the way Karen describes. Being a part of the community has helped me find love my hearing loss as a part of me and become passionate about telling the stories of others with hearing loss.
Read more: Book by deaf author teaches us to live with passion
Of course, I learned a lot from just watching D.J. on the tour. It is clear in his YouTube videos that he is confident with his hearing loss. Seeing him in person allowed me to see this confidence throughout his shows and through conversation. D.J. says he used to shy away from talking about his hearing loss and now he is getting up on stage in front of hundreds of people speaking about his hearing loss with confidence. He truly is breaking down the stigmas of hearing loss one laugh at a time.
“He truly is breaking down the stigmas of hearing loss one laugh at a time.”
I admire his braveness to walk into the audience and take a chance on whether or not he will hear the person’s response to his comment or question. If he doesn’t hear someone he will just keep asking. This seems simple, but I will admit there are times where I think it would be easier to just nod and walk away.
Read more: D.J. Demers: “I have never wanted to be the hearing aid guy”
It is interesting to see how relationships can be tightly built before actually meeting someone in person. It is a part of our culture now with social media, meet up apps, dating apps, etc. Although there are pros and cons to online communities, I only see pros with the HearingLikeMe “hEARos” community.
It is important to be part of a community that is so much bigger than you to help you feel like you are not alone in your hearing loss journey. By being a part of the HearingLikeMe community you can receive,
…and the list goes on. Since joining the community I now feel more confident with my hearing loss and I know that there are other people out there who are in the same or similar situation that I am in. While I was lucky enough to meet up with these Phonak hEARos recently, even if I hadn’t I would continue to feel inspired by them through our online interactions. Plus, you never know, you may be able to meet up with another person in the community too!
It is simple! First of all, follow and engage with us on social media. (Both HearingLikeMe and Phonak)
On Twitter Phonak hosts a #hearinglosshour every first Wednesday of the month. There is a certain topic for each month and we have a twitter chat with other deaf and hard of hearing people from around the world.
Read our blog! Our hEARos do a phenomenal job of creating content that is relevant, inspiring and helpful for the deaf and hard of hearing community. Check us out.
We want to hear from you! We want to know your story and help you find others that you can relate to. You never have to feel alone when you have hearing loss. Leave us a comment, write us a message, or sign up to be a hEARo!