Meet Jack McConnell and Grace Gleba, two teenage athletes with hearing loss who prove that anything is possible with courage and determination! We were able to talk with them both to learn more about the impact their hearing aids have had on their lives as athletes and beyond.
Born with hearing loss, Grace has worn hearing aids since she was three months old. Advocating for those with hearing loss has always been a priority for Grace and her family. In December 2008, Grace and her parents were fundamental in passing Grace's Law, a New Jersey Law that requires children 15 years of age and younger to have available hearing aid insurance coverage. She is now a competitive cheerleader and is very thankful that she has hearing aids to help her excel in her sport.
Jack is a young lacrosse player who is changing what hearing loss means for people worldwide! He is the founder of 20/20 Hearing, a Foundation that helps fund hearing healthcare and hearing technology for those who need it! Jack also travels on mission trips around the world to help those in underdeveloped nations get access to hearing technology.
As athletes with hearing loss, Grace and Jack have unique perspectives on the importance of addressing hearing health and embracing hearing technology. We asked them some questions about their experiences and what advice they might give to other athletes who are unsure about treating their hearing loss. Check it out!
What is your favorite part about being an athlete?
Grace: I love the adrenaline I get before I run on stage and while I stand waiting for the music to turn on. My other favorite part of cheer is hitting a new skill in tumbling or stunting!
Jack: My favorite part is being on a team and working together with other people. In lacrosse, a lot of the game is reacting to your teammate 's movement, so working together is crucial.
Do your hearing aids help you participate in sports?
Grace: If I didn 't wear hearing aids, I don 't know how I could do it. Cheer is all about communication and listening. In a loud football stadium with the roar of the crowd and announcer calling the game, you need to be able to hear the person who calls out the cheers. In competition, you need to be able to distinguish certain counts throughout the beats of the music to do a certain skill at a certain time. The most important thing is being able to hear the music when it starts. I tumble after the, “ding ding.” Hearing that first part is crucial or I wouldn 't be able to start on time, and it would affect the whole two minute and 30 second routine.
Jack: It can be hard to hear with my hearing aids while I am wearing a lacrosse helmet, but it gives me an interesting perspective on the game. My teammates and my coaches know that it is hard for me to hear, so we have created hand signals and my team is very helpful to me. I rely on my visual acuity to play my best game and read lips or expressions of my teammates. Reading lips can come in handy!
Do you feel more active when you wear your hearing aids?
Grace: Definitely. Just hearing voices or sounds perks you up rather than just having a silent world. Without being able to hear, I wouldn 't be able to communicate back or respond to the environment around me like everyone else.
Jack: Yes, I feel more active when I wear my hearing aids. I love to be outside with my family, friends, dogs, etc., and there are so many sounds to hear when you are being active!
What is the greatest challenge you have faced as an athlete with hearing loss?
Grace: The hardest has to be missing the first beat of the music. Last year I was at the UCA Regional Competition (which qualifies my team for the National Championship) and I missed my first tumbling piece because the crowd kept cheering even after the music started. I missed that first beat, and as a result, missed the very first thing I was supposed to do.
Jack: My greatest challenge of being an athlete with hearing loss is that not everybody understands hearing loss, and it can be very frustrating. I always try to explain to new teammates or coaches so we can use it to our advantage on the field!
What advice would you give to an athlete who is unsure about treating his or her hearing loss?
Grace: It 's so much better being able to hear. For me in particular, I 'm able to excel and be very successful at this “listening and yelling sport.” I've even been awarded the Coach 's award two years in a row and was recently selected by a national cheerleading company for a prestigious marketing internship. There 's so much I miss even when I wear hearing aids; however, it 's worth wearing them, not just for sports but for everything else as well!
Jack: My advice is, you should definitely wear your hearing aids in whatever activity you do! You should also let your team know about your hearing loss, and you should create hand signals with your team and coach. It will help everyone! Most importantly, you should never let your hearing loss hold you back from ANYTHING!
Young advocates like Grace and Jack are an inspiration for athletes with hearing loss and paving the way for athletes of the future. If you are inspired by their stories, schedule an appointment to address your hearing needs today!