Knowledge

Hearing From You: Nancy's Story

Nancy Williams is a professional musician, an award-winning writer, and advocate for hearing health education.

Concert pianist Nancy Williams counts herself among the proud hearing aid wearers of the world. Though, she wasn’t always so comfortable telling others about her hearing loss. Flash forward to the present day and she has written a variety of award-winning essays and articles published on numerous sites.

Her writings range from musical education for children with hearing loss to pieces that reinforce other individuals with hearing loss to feel comfortable. In her article entitled, “Why Fake It” for the site Hearing Health Matters, she reveals her previous natural tendency to attempt to piece together a guess of what others were saying rather than letting them know she didn’t hear correctly the first time.

Learning to love your loss

Born with sensorineural hearing loss, Nancy was fitted with her first hearing aid in the seventh grade. It was a typical behind-the-ear hearing aid for the late 1970s, with thick tubing connected to an earmold, and Nancy tried hard to hide the whole thing behind her hair.

“My childhood was about blending in and being as mainstream as possible,” she says. “It felt like I would be penalized if I admitted to people that I had a hearing loss, so I rarely told anyone. In some sense, I didn’t even admit it to myself.”

Over the years, Nancy’s hearing loss became progressively worse. Luckily, the hearing aids she wears today are much smaller and the technology has advanced significantly. Nancy has even spoken about her hearing loss has actually benefitted her life as a musician. She notes, “For me, the act of listening is more conscious than it is for a musician who does not have hearing loss. Striving to overcome the disability of not hearing is part of what aids my musicality.”

An unforgettable moment

Despite her optimistic viewpoint on her hearing loss, Nancy wasn’t too comfortable telling others about it. She recalls a concert in 2010 that changed everything. When she sat down that night and began to play Chopin’s “Raindrop Prelude”, something didn’t sound quite right.

Nancy realized quickly that she hadn’t switched the setting on her hearing aids to “music,” and that it was affecting her performance. She had to stop playing, adjust her hearing aids, and begin again. She explained to her audience why she had paused - her first time revealing to an audience that she had a hearing loss - and it turned out to be a life-changing moment.

musicians with hearing loss

"It was a really pivotal moment for me because up until that time I had been silent about my hearing loss,” she says. “That day opened a door for me.”

Today, in addition to performing on the piano, Nancy is the founding editor of Grand Piano Passion, an online magazine celebrating musicians with hearing loss. She is also an award-winning nonfiction author, a motivational speaker, and she serves on the board of the Hearing Health Foundation.

While Nancy doesn’t know how much more of her hearing she will lose in the coming years, she does know she is grateful for her hearing aids and what they help her to do.

“Every time I sit down to play the piano I give a prayer of thanks,” she says. “I want to remember it as much as I can.”

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