Brad N. tells the story of his daughter, Molly, and her journey to performing the lead role in a musical as a girl with cochlear implants. After taking an interest in music, Molly’s journey to performing on stage, playing musical instruments and even writing her own songs has only just begun. See how she did in her starring role:
“When our daughter Molly was born, her 2½ year old brother Isaac held her on his lap and said, ‘You’re gonna grow up and play music!’ It was a cute moment! Several months later, we recognized the statement was more poignant than cute when we learned Molly could not hear music at all. She was deaf.
Thus, began the panicked weeks of seeing every pediatric hearing specialist in town and learning our options. We wanted her to be Part of our Hearing World, so we decided to get her cochlear implants. Over the ensuing months, we learned about these astonishing devices and began Molly’s journey to hearing with the help of terrific audiologists and auditory verbal therapists.
While Molly advanced through her Ling sounds and her annunciation, we knew music would likely remain a challenge. We were worried that music, especially music with a lot of instruments, could be noisy and bothersome for cochlear implant recipients.
The beginning of a girl with cochlear implant’s music journey
Still, when she was about 7, Molly took an interest in pop music (especially Taylor Swift). It did not seem too noisy for her, but she often had trouble with the lyrics. Now, let’s face it, pop and rock lyrics are often tough to decipher, even for people with excellent hearing. (Are the Bee Gees really hungry when they seem to sing, “Steak and a knife, steak and a knife”? Are the Rolling Stones promoting their new Italian restaurant when they seem too croon, “I’ll never leave your pizza burning”?) But the task was especially tough for Molly. I would try to annunciate the words for her, but she did not have the time in the middle of a song for corrections from her old man.
Her reading was improving around this time, so I came up with a new plan. I showed her the liner notes from her favorite Taylor Swift CD, complete with song lyrics! (And bonus tip! I made copies of the little booklet, knowing full well she would quickly destroy the original with homemade slime or a melted popsicle in her car seat.) Though the days of those little booklets, and CDs themselves, may have come to an end, song lyrics are readily available online. Molly sometimes even lets me go over them with her now, learning new vocabulary and increasing understanding of idioms and song themes. And though Taylor Swift remains a favorite, Molly’s catalog of printed lyrics has rapidly expanded to include other pop songs, country music, movie soundtracks and Broadway showtunes.
Molly’s journey into musical theatre
Molly has even become a theatrical performer. She joined an after-school theater group a year ago and enjoyed performing in a variety show, in which she acted in sketches, sang songs from ‘The Greatest Showman’ with her castmates and sang ‘Tomorrow’ from ‘Annie’ as a solo number. Her drama teachers praised her singing ability, saying her pitch was remarkably good, even better than many people without cochlear implants!
The next semester the instructors announced the group would be performing ‘The Little Mermaid.’ Molly auditioned for the part of Ariel … and got it! It was an exciting moment for a girl who had grown up adoring Disney® princesses. And the irony of her playing Ariel was not lost on any of us. Yes, the deaf girl whose parents wanted her to be Part of the Hearing World would play the role of the mermaid who wants to be Part of the Human World. Molly recognized that she, the girl whose world started out silent, would portray the mermaid who becomes silenced.
Her starring role
Molly did great. She learned her lines and she sang ‘Part of Your World’ beautifully. The local news even covered her story. And she is ready for more. She is taking piano lessons (and of course chose a Taylor Swift song for her recital) and is beginning to write her own songs. As her reading continues to improve, the role of written lyrics continues to expand. She loves karaoke and the words scrolling on the screen allow her to understand the lyrics that otherwise sound garbled. I have closed captioning activated on all our TV sets, too, which is another great tool to fill in the gaps of what she does not hear correctly.
So, Isaac was right after all. Molly did indeed ‘grow up and play music!’ She’s fully Part of Our World! And we could not be happier about it. In fact, we are overjoyed! In fact, with a bunch of strangers working on their laptops in this coffee shop, I gotta grab somebody and celebrate! With Jimi Hendrix blaring in my headphones, “Excuse me while I kiss this guy!”
Are you interested in getting cochlear implants for your child like Molly? Learn more about cochlear implants as a solution for your child today.
Check out Brad’s own blog here.1