As a musician, I cannot remember a time that I did not feel sound coursing through every cell of my body. It has always been the innermost part of my being. I feel every tone vibrating within me. Singing brought me a joy that cannot easily be explained. It has to be felt. There is a profound need for expression.
When I was 19 years old, something happened that I did not know would have such an impact on my life. I stood behind a register at work, and a family came up to place a food order. As the father stepped up, a loud ringing started in my ears, and all other sound was gone. I was deaf. I was terrified! I made a polite exit and went to the back of the restaurant and waited for it to pass. It did, thankfully. I pretended that it never happened. The truth of it was too terrifying to deal with. Every time it happened, I tried hard to ignore the implications.
I pressed on, honing my craft as a musician and working to make a name for myself within the local music scene. I wrote, recorded, and performed wherever I could. By the time I hit thirty, I could no longer hide from what was happening. I sought help. These episodes were seemingly random. It was frustrating. I would be perfectly fine one moment and stone deaf the next. I did not realize that the dizziness I had had my entire life was related to the issue within my ears. It took another 15 years, three audiologists, a neurologist, and 3 Ear/Nose/Throat doctors before I would get an answer: Meniere’s Disease.
I thought that meant the end for my music. Who heard of a Hard of Hearing musician? I learned sign language, threw myself into deaf culture, and got involved in the deaf community. I kept that part of my life separate from that with my musician friends. I learned to read lips and fake my way through conversations in loud bars and no one ever caught on. I hid my hearing aides at work and never wore them when I went out to see a band. I felt that if they knew there was something wrong with my ears, somehow that would make me less of a musician.
Now there is a whole new group of musicians coming to the foreground proving that DEAF does not mean living in silence and the music does not have to stop!