Today’s post is very special to me.  It is a personal story shared by a member of my extended family – Cady Lear Macfee. Cady is a funny, bright, loving, amazing young woman. She is a gift to those who meet her. Her story provides a glimpse into her experiences. It can inform how we think about and how we approach others with hearing loss or impairments.

gift1My grandfather bought me my first hearing aid shortly after my parents learned I was deaf.  I lost my hearing to meningitis at the age of 2.  That was my first gift at hearing again.

Growing up, music was a big part of my family’s  life.  Whether its playing a musical instrument or listening to music,  it was part of our daily life.  I distinctively remember enjoying music as I was exercising along to Richard Simmons in my leotards.    I needed something to guide me along to really understand music.

When I was growing up, MTV was solely all about showing the music video.  I was glued to the TV just admiring the different genres of musics. I attempted to read the singers’ lips but that wasn’t easy.  My sister was into Pop music and my brother liked any bands that he can rock out to on his drum set.  I didn’t have a particular genre favorite, I liked whatever my brother and sister liked.  My reading skills were emerging about that time and I made sure I played the same song over and over again until I was able to sing the whole song.

Yes, I know I can’t sing. I enjoy singing to myself and to other deaf people but when I’m around  people with perfect hearing, I’m asked to shut up.  There goes my dream of becoming an opera singer (sarcasm).  So instead of singing, I sign along to the music.  Probably not the brightest thing to do while driving in the car.  It is even impossible to just mouth the words to the song.  #deafwomanproblems

In 1998, I experienced tinnitus in my right ear for 3 months nonstop.  In case you’re wondering what tinnitus is – it’s the ringing  noise you hear inside your head.  No one is sure why I had tinnitus and especially for 3 months!  The tinnitus destroyed my residual hearing in my right ear. I was not able to hear speech, understand noise, or enjoy music.

In September, I received my cochlear implant in KC.  Then I had to wait a month to get it activated.  The ride home with my parents on activation day was eventful.  I remember my dad asked me if I could identify the song from one of his favorite bands.  I wasn’t able to because the quality of sound wasn’t clear to me at the time. I couldn’t distinguished my parents’ voice.  The song that my dad asked me to guess was “Barbara Ann” by the Beach Boys.

After a lot of auditory training, I was able to enjoy music again.  I also was given the gift of a CD player for my car from my brother.  Family members heard my brother was going to do that and gave me $ to buy more CDs!

I avoided going to concerts for the longest time because I felt that it would be a waste of my money to only to be able to hear some of the songs.  I attended my first concert in Boston, ironically I only knew the words to one song. It was Jimmy Buffett’s “I don’t know”.

Music can be enjoyed by everyone regardless of their hearing status.  People assume that deaf people don’t listen to music but that’s not true.  When people say such a thing, I always have to remind them that Beethoven was deaf and would suggest them to watch the movie, “Mr. Holland’s Opus.   I knew I would have several of my friends that are deaf/hard of hearing at my wedding. I wanted to do something different for my first dance with my husband.  We picked the song “I’m Yours” by Jason Mraz.  I had a power point of pictures of my husband and I growing up.  I asked the person who helped me create the power point to add the lyrics of the song with the pictures.  It was a challenge, but I really wanted my friends, deaf or hearing, to enjoy the music.

This year I celebrated the 15th anniversary of the date I received my implant.  To this day, I don’t regret getting it.  I still enjoy listening to music, but struggle to find the time to replay one song numerous times to be able to sing or sign it! My niece and nephews are more up-to-date on today’s music than I am!  Oh well!  It’s very rare that people get the gift to hear again twice in their lifetime.  I’m one lucky lady!

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