Hi, I’m Marc.
Born hearing impaired, I was luckily diagnosed as a small child. My right ear has 60% hearing loss, and my left ear has 40% loss. Basically, instead of two fully functional ears, I hear as if I have ONE. If you are standing fifteen feet behind me saying my name, I will not hear you.
During my childhood I wore hearing aids. At that time, devices were bulky, uncomfortable, and embarrassing, not to mention the feedback, ringing and buzzing when any interference was close. My childhood was spent skateboarding and surfing, I lived at the skate park and the beach. Back then the technology was not great, I ultimately stopped wearing them, they just interfered with my lifestyle.
I was born with this disability; I did not really notice I was habitually using my other senses to cope with my deficiency. I just automatically acquired new skills. Thinking back, I innately knew to be acutely aware in social situations and would automatically recruit my other senses to “read” both the room and the people in it.
At some point I became a master lipreader, I learned to do more than just listen – I paid ATTENTION. For example, I always have direct, focused eye contact. Why? I must be completely present on what they are saying. For me to “hear” people, I use all my senses. The result is that I appear to be really absorbed in any conversation because I am.
As a young teen I developed a love of photography and videography. It was a fun taking photos and making cool videos with my friends. That lead me to earn a BA at the School of Visual Arts in NYC for photography. I became a sought-after freelance photographer, clients such a Nike and high profile music artists put my skills to good use. Looking back, it is clear to me that my sense of sight was something I relied heavily on—I developed a strong eye for seeing the beauty in things.
Then, fourteen years ago, I found myself with an opportunity to work at one of the most prestigious stages in the world, the New York Metropolitan Opera House. I joined the theatrical stagehand team. My team is responsible for all visual and digital special effects for one of the oldest forms of entertainment. We enhance the audiences visual experience by using visual technology to help tell these old classic stories. Not only do I get to be creative in the way I love, but the environment is perfect for someone like me–someone who needs things loud to hear. Stagehands are pirates, literally. The very first stagehands 200 years ago were in fact pirates. The pirates and sailors were hired by theater managers in port cities because they had a specific skillset. They had skills that included tying knots and rigging ropes, things that are an integral part of any live show. My team at work know about my hearing impairment, but professionally it’s never been an issue, mainly because I put myself in positions where I don’t let it become an issue.
What’s my advice to other “lemonheads”? Accept yourself! When you are born with something like I was, or even if you have developed another permanent challenge, you must first accept the fact that no matter what you do…. this is your situation. Be open to helping yourself. Do not suffer in silence, use all the assets you can to make your life better. I am in the market now for a new hearing aid, the technology is finally so much better!
For me, I am down one sense out of the five. So, if you are “down a sense”, strengthen the other four! Senses are like muscles you have to have to train. Be honest with others and communicate clearly on what you need. And finally, whether you have a hearing impairment or not, next time you speak to someone really take the time to listen. Do not just HEAR them, take the time to use all your senses to really engage with what they are saying. HOW you are listening to people is huge, really “listen”, you may see a difference in HOW they respond. We can absolutely all benefit from having deeper connections with each other.