Hearing loss can make life difficult, but it doesn’t have to stand in the way of success. Here are some sports champions who refused to let their hearing issues hold them back.
Frank Bartolillo, who competed in the individual foil event as the top Australian fencer at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, has claimed that he found being deaf to be an advantage as it enabled him to better concentrate
David Smith was born with severe hearing loss (in range of 80% to 90%), and has worn hearing aids in both ears since he was three years old, and uses lip-reading to communicate with teammates. He made his Olympic debut on the US Men’s Volleyball team at the 2012 London Olympics. His coach introduced the “David Smith Rule”: when David has the ball, he can’t be stopped because he can’t hear anyone shouting to him, and he always knows what to do.
Terrence Parkin communicates in sign language with his coach, and strobe light signals are used during competition in order to indicate when to start swimming. Terrence surprised the world by winning the silver medal in the 200-metre breaststroke at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney.
Jim Ryun lost approximately half of his hearing at the age of five after a case of the measles and he didn’t wear hearing aids until he was 40 years old, but this didn’t stop this track and field star from winning a silver medal in the 1500 metres at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics. Ryun later went on to become a US congressman and was responsible for the introduction of a Hearing Aid Tax Credit Act to provide financial assistance for individuals with hearing loss.
Jeff Float was one of the first Olympians with hearing loss. Born in 1960, he suffered viral meningitis as a baby, leaving him 90% deaf in his right ear and 65% deaf in his left. Despite this he went on to win gold in the 4×200-metre freestyle relay at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.
Float recalls emerging from the pool after his leg of the race and feeling the vibrations of stomping feet and the roar of the crowd. “It was the first time I remember hearing distinctive cheers at a meet,” says Float. “I’ll never forget what 17,000 screaming people sound like. It was incredible.”
Everyone’s dreams are different, and you should never let anything get in the way of what you can achieve.