HeartStrong Champion!

Posted by jennifer gibson on Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Oh my! I just received the news this morning that I've been named a HearStrong Champion! Perfect timing too, it's such a nice Christmas present for me ;)

News release:

We are proud to name Jennifer Gibson a HearStrong Champion! Jennifer is the author of a trilogy series of books about a young woman named Jessie who has hearing loss and overcomes many obstacles.

Jennifer's dedication to helping change the stigmas surrounding hearing loss makes her pretty amazing!


Want to know what my interview was like? Here it is for you to read and enjoy :)

When did you first experience hearing loss?

I was born with a severe to profound hearing loss due to congential Ruebella in 1970. Growing up, I wore body aids that was acutely visible for everyone to see, then switched to Behind the Ear hearing aids in high school. In College, I wore Widex digital hearing aids that had a huge impact on my ability to hear, I discovered new sounds that I’ve never heard before!
I recently went deaf in my right ear from antibiotics when I was in the hospital, I’m now using Oticon Chili super power BTE’s.

What was your life like before you addressed your hearing loss?

I grew up with my hearing loss and learned how to utilize a variety of techniques that helped me cope with it, such as using lip reading, using an FM system at school and being upfront and honest with everyone I meet.  Since being hard of hearing is an invisible disability, I’ve discovered that there is no shame in wearing hearing aids and in fact, my hearing aids are decorated with glittering crystals and I wear bright pink and white swirled earmolds. Virtually everyone that meets me is quick to exclaim “I love your hearing aids!”.  Being bold has opened many doors and because I embrace my hearing aids, it has made it a more welcoming and enlightening experience for others who want to learn more about being hearing impaired. I’ve had many people approach me and ask all sorts of curious questions about hearing loss and they often request where they can get a pair of hearing aids and ear molds just like mine.  They’ve learned that it doesn’t matter how old you are, anyone can have a hearing loss, it’s just a matter of accepting it and moving forward in life.

What inspired you to take action and visit your hearing provider to get tested and fitted for a device or devices?

I’ve learned that if I want if I want to live a normal life and be engaged in the community, succeed at school and participate in sports that I love, that I had to embrace my hearing loss.  It meant having a note taker in class, wearing an FM system at school, using live captioning at meetings or conferences, and relying on closed captioning for watching televison or movies and wearing my hearing aids on a daily basis.  This meant getting tested and receiving new hearing aids every 3 years and obtaining ear molds every 6 – 8 months for an excellent fit. Staying on top of my hearing loss and watching for sudden changes is a crucial and important requirement for me so that I can continue to live my life the way I want to. 

What things have you accomplished with the help of your hearing devices?

I didn’t let my hearing loss stop me from following my dreams.  I tried out for the Women’s Team Canada in Ice Hockey and have received two Black Belts.  I became an instructor in Martial Arts at several schools and have also been an ice hockey coach and trainer for several years. I’m currently involved in fencing at two clubs, Foil in Peterborough, Ontario and Sabre at the Royal Military College in Kingston, Ontario. Even though it was challenge to do these activities, I strongly believed in listening to my heart and following my passion. 

I have also become an award winning photographer and published author.  My trilogy series (Sway, Compass, Destiny) for young adults featuring a hearing impaired teen has received world-wide recognition and numerous awards, including Silver in the 2014 Literary Classics Books Awards. I wanted to show the world what it was like living with a hearing loss and at the same time, provide hope and inspiration for others going through the same experience.  The results were outstanding, with the books hitting the TOP 50 bestseller list and the feedback I’ve received from readers of all ages has been extremely positive.  My books have made them much more aware and more compassionate towards people with disabilities.  They have proven to have made a difference in their perceptions about hearing loss and allowed the readers to fall in love with a sweet and endearing character who is simply striving to do the best she can under difficult circumstances – just like me.

How has hearing better affected your relationships?

Wearing hearing aids and using tools such as lip reading, sign language and being honest about my hearing loss has cemented my ability to connect with people, especially with my family. It would’ve been impossible to go after my dreams and achieve all of my goals if I didn’t have my hearing aids. Without them, my world is a silent one.

How has hearing better affected your professional life?

It inspired me to write a trilogy series about a teen with a hearing loss which has been a truly rewarding experience. Even though the books are based on my life, featuring true scenarios of growing up with a hearing impairment and wearing hearing aids, I felt it was necessary to share it with my readers so that they can too experience it from a unique point of view. Becoming an award-winning author has had a profound affect, not only to myself but also to readers of all ages around the world.

It has also established a connection to the community and enabled me to become a public speaker about hearing loss.  I’ve participated in many conferences and been a keynote speaker at various events across Canada and the US where I’ve inspired others to stay strong.

What advice would you give to someone with hearing loss that was unsure about seeking assistance?

My life is literally an open book, they are more than welcome to ask me anything. Living with a hearing loss for over 40 years has provided me with many extreme ups and downs, very much like a roller coaster ride, and has taught me that I don’t have to hide in the shadows – all I had to do was step into the light and embrace it. Even though it meant dealing with a lot of challenges and trying to keep up in a very social world, it has encouraged me to continue moving forward by finding solutions that work for me. It meant that I didn’t have to be afraid of it and as a result, it has inspired others to obtain the help that they needed.

Technology is rapidly changing, and that’s fantastic since it means better resources and enables us to stay in touch with the rest of world regardless of our hearing loss. You have nothing to lose by trying out the latest technology, including amazing digital hearing aids that are available today.  My Oticon hearing aids have given me the ability to understand music for the first time in my life and that’s a beautiful thing to hear.

How would you feel about being named a HearStrong Champion and serving as an inspiration to others to overcome their hearing loss?

It would be a pleasure and privilege to be named a HearStrong Champion.  To me, that’s an incredible affirmation that I did the right thing by being honest about my hearing loss.  When I first published my books about a hearing impaired teen, I was mortified since that was my soul on those pages and I had no idea how the readers would react to them. When Sway hit the TOP 50 bestsellers list, that’s was a sign that I did the right thing which encouraged me to continue writing the series.  All I wanted to do was write a truly special story about a hearing impaired teenaged girl, I had no idea just how unique it was until my books started receiving awards.  To have so many people love and embrace my books is simply amazing. I’m thrilled that they are helping others get a better understanding about being hearing impaired and at the same time, providing hope and inspiration for them.

Is there any specific moment or event that really symbolizes the impact hearing better has had on your life?

There are many moments in my life where it’s had a monumental impact, the most rewarding are when I tried out for the Women’s Team Canada in Ice Hockey, and when I received two Black Belts. Fencing in Foil and Sabre has been an incredible challenge and pushed me to go further than ever before. I’ve recently discovered great joy and talent in designing book covers for authors around the world. Those were huge goals for me to go after and being able to accomplish them is astounding. Publishing my trilogy series about a hearing impaired teen is probably the most special moment for me since it’s so personal.

The most important revelation for me was realizing that being stubborn was a good thing since it made me more determined to follow my heart. Being honest about my hearing loss and embracing it was by far the best decision I’ve ever made.
I strongly believe in this motto which is reflected in my books and in my life: “Find the light within you and let it shine.” 

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