Professionals with hearing loss | Featured bloggers
During the month of September, Healthy Hearing will be featuring different bloggers in the hearing loss community. From those across the ocean to parents of children with hearing loss, we'll take a closer look at some of the top blogs and resources available to you! In this article we check out how professionals with hearing loss are juggling multiple titles!
Nancy M. Williams is a writer, public speaker and a piano player. She also has high-frequency hearing loss, but that hasn’t stopped her from embracing her passion for music.
Nancy spent 20 years in management consulting and telecom marketing, trying to hide her hearing loss from her boss and colleagues. She wore her hair long, she faked her way through board meetings. But one day, she realized the sacrifices weren’t worth the struggle, and that she was hiding an important aspect of herself from the people around her.
“I think it’s hard for people who don’t have hearing loss to understand just how palpable the stigma is,” she said. “It can often seem invisible or hard to put your hand on. Many people with hearing loss make that same decision to hide it. It’s an instinct of self preservation. When we do that, we hide part of ourselves and it’s hard to come to terms with that aspect of ourselves.”
Nancy’s moment of clarity struck when she re-embraced her love of the piano in 2005. A combination of family and financial pressures forced her to give up playing long before at the age of 16, and so she was nervous when she sat down with her instructor in the soundproof university practice room where he taught. After several sessions of pretending to ignore the feedback squealing from her hearing aids, she confessed her hearing loss to her teacher.
“My relationship with the piano was so fragile. I hadn’t played in 25 years. I thought he would say I didn’t have any potential and lessons were a waste of time,” Nancy said. “Finally, one day I said, ‘I want to tell you that I wear hearing aids.’ He said, ‘I noticed.’ I think that’s a really important story because most people do notice a hearing loss.”
Nancy now works full time as a public speaker, writer and hearing loss advocate. Her e-magazine, Grand Piano Passion, which evolved from the blog she started in 2010, focuses on stories of musicians with hearing loss and incorporating your hearing loss into your passions. While hearing loss has forced her to work much harder to get where she is, Nancy also recognizes its positive aspects.
“I think if I can have a week or even a day with normal hearing I would take it,” she said. “I would love to hear what a piano sounds like. But I’m thankful for the growth that hearing loss has afforded me and the friendships it has given me.”
Jennifer Gibson is another woman who has turned a personal passion into a career, as well as a way to motivate those with hearing loss. Jennifer’s book series (Sway, Compass and Destiny), which are featured on her blog, center on Jessie, a teenager with hearing loss who faces bullying while negotiating the winding roads of adolescent romance in the halls of her high school. Many of Jessie's stories are Jennifer's own, pulled from her journal she kept while growing up with hearing loss.
"I’ve incorporated scenes from many segments of my life that left a lasting impression on me from when I was a young child and throughout high school and college," Jennifer said. "Even the most recent experiences went into my books. It was heartbreaking at times to write some of those scenes but I knew that it was necessary to show the world what it really is like to be hard of hearing in a social world."
"Honestly? I wish that I had these books when I was growing up," she continued. "Jessie is my own personal hero. Ironically."
Jennifer turned to writing because books had always been an escape for her growing up. Her books about Jessie continue to accrue awards and rave reviews from readers, and also serve as a source of inspiration to those with hearing loss, not only in living your life freely, but having the courage to pursue your passions.
"Don’t let others rule your life, they have no idea what it’s like to have a hearing loss," she said. "Stay strong. And most of all, believe in yourself."