Take a moment and plug your ears.
What you hear- and most importantly what you don’t hear – right now, is what a person with profound hearing loss experiences every day of their life. It’s the permanent cone of silence, where even normal conversation becomes a labor to understand. Yet, three pillars of life help those with hearing loss live full and happy lives:
1. The Grace of God;
2. Great educators and leaders in Auditory Verbal Therapy, especially the pioneers at Listen and Talk
3. The fortune to live in an era where great advances in technology have peeled off the cone of silence.
I’m Katharine Grimm and I am completely deaf in one ear and have profound loss in the other. I have the cone of silence always lurking in my life. But those three pillars I mentioned have given me strength.
The first pillar is Divine intervention. It is but for the Grace of God that I am where I am standing today. My hearing loss developed when I contracted meningitis as a nine-month-old. With a persistent fever approaching 108 degrees, I should have died, or at the least should have had profound brain damage. Imagine the pain my family went through as they helplessly watched their little baby wracked with fever.
But the Lord intervened, allowing my fever to break after two days. I believe it was the Lord who heard and answered the prayers of my family and the multitude of prayers from family friends. He also blessed me with an incredible set of parents and three older brothers. My mother searched high and low for options for her daughter with profound loss. We, first, started with sign language. After some time, I started to reject the use of sign language. At a loss of how to communicate to her baby girl, my mom continued her search.
Mom researched all forms of communication and fell upon the second pillar: Education. And there is no place more wonderful than Listen and Talk, with Star Leonard-Fleckman and her team of incredible educators. At Listen and Talk, I learned invaluable communication skills. Star and others taught me to listen intently to what people were saying; to focus on their faces and glean their thoughts and words from the formations of their words and the expressions in their faces. Listen and Talk taught me to enunciate, to form my own words and express them clearly. These skills I carry with me today.
When I was 5, Dad and Mom adopted the third pillar: Technology. I had my dead ear implanted with a cochlear implant and I was one of the first children in Seattle to have a dead ear implanted. The doctor wanted to implant my ear with profound loss, but my parents insisted that even though it was experimental and risky at that time, implanting the dead ear was the right thing to do.
I remember as if it was yesterday when they unwrapped my bandages and connected me up. The technicians asked me to hold a headphone to my ear and put a building block in a box when I heard a tone. When that tone passed through the implant and stimulated my auditory nerve, my father said my eyes got as big as saucers and my mouth curled into a big O of surprise and astonishment. I put the block in the box and looked with utter joy at my parents. Mom and Dad had tears streaming down their cheeks.
Listen and Talk and technology allowed me to become the dancer I wanted to be, attending the Pacific Northwest Ballet as a student, participating in the annual Nutcracker as various characters over the years, and developing my dance skills. Also, I was accepted for a 5-week Summer Intensive at the prestigious School of American Ballet in New York City, fine-tuning my technique and being part of an entourage that expanded their knowledge and depth of dance. Listen and Talk played an integral role in that development, for the listening skills I learned at that school translated to dance: listening to and observing the physical world around me; and hearing not only the music but the beat from the music through the floor.
Today, I am a proud graduate Seattle Preparatory School and the University of Washington! Moreover, the skills I gleaned from Listen and Talk helped me become a member of the University of Washington Dance Team, representing the Huskies at home football and basketball games at home and away, and acting as a goodwill ambassador for charitable events throughout the Pacific Northwest.
I’m currently studying to become an Ultrasound Sonographer at Bellevue College; the #1 ranked school nationally for ultrasound. Listen and Talk taught me to advocate for myself and utilize the resources of the Disability Resource Center in school. Because of this, I am excelling in my classes – all while planning a wedding. I am engaged to a loving and supportive fiancé I met at the University of Washington.
Is everyday life easy? Heavens NO! It is a constant struggle to discern all the sounds in a crowded room at a party, to figure out quickly where sounds are coming from. And at night when I take out my cochlear implant and hearing aid, the cone of silence returns.
But I AM NOT A VICTIM! I’ve been taught to take life by storm, to never let a physical setback keep me from my dreams. I can only hope that my story will inspire others to achieve their dreams.
There may have been obstacles along the way, but I am grateful to God, my family, to technology, and especially to Listen and Talk. These pillars support me and make me a productive member of society.