Champion - Danielle Fanelle

Figure Skater • Coach

From: Sewell, NJ

Discovering Hearing Difficulties

"The first noticeable and detectible hearing loss occurred when I was 10 years old. During the yearly hearing check at school in 4th grade, the school nurse noticed a decline in my hearing from the previous year. It was then I first saw a local audiologist," said Danielle.

Told that the loss was minor, Danielle's parents resolved to "keep an eye on" their daughter's ability to hear.

"Over the next eight years, my hearing continued to decline. Family and friends would comment on how loud I was speaking. In 12th grade, when I was 18…I finally had to admit that I was not hearing (well). After in-depth testing, we found that my hearing had declined dramatically, and that I had about 45% to 48% hearing loss. In the spring of 2011, I got my first set of hearing aids."

Hearing Better and Reaching Goals

"Life before my hearing loss diagnosis was extremely difficult. It was exhausting, because I was constantly trying to compensate. I am a competitive figure skater at the senior ladies level. Few skaters ever achieve this level of figure skating. (Before utilizing my hearing devices,) hearing my music on the ice was next to impossible at times. My coaches constantly had to restart my music or tell me to hurry because I was not skating along with the music."

But thanks to her hearing devices, Danielle is living in a world of sound.

"Hearing aids have opened up an entirely new world for me… within my sport. I had the amazing opportunity to travel to Scotland to compete in a figure skating competition for physically (challenged) skaters (called Inclusive Skating). I was the first figure skater to represent the United States in an event such as this. I was also the first senior level skater to ever do so." "It's amazing how relationships evolve when you can hear the other person in the relationship. Since getting my hearing aids, everyday interactions have become so much easier. I feel closer to my family and friends…I am able to hear conversations with much more ease and I am not constantly feeling left out and frustrated. There is no doubt I feel more confident."

Living her Dreams

"Being a full-time athlete…my time is 100% devoted to training, choreographing and teaching. I literally have more hours per week that I am able to spend actually training because I no longer have to constantly restart my music because I could not hear it, and my coaches no longer have to repeat themselves six times."

Danielle has also begun to coach other skaters too.

"Teaching is something I really love, and I have even started choreographing a bit for some of my students. I hope someday to develop set guidelines in which a (hard-of-) hearing skater will be able to train to the highest level. I am working with Inclusive Skating to help accomplish the ultimate goal of having figure skating be a part of the winter Paralympic games."

Why Danielle is a HearStrong Champion

"The needs of (the hard-of-) hearing athlete is a cause that is very close to my heart. I hope I have been able to, and (will) continue to, inspire other (hard-of-) hearing athletes, especially young skaters, to achieve their dreams. It was very humbling (to see) the faces of the very young skaters at the competition In Scotland; to actually have them come up to me and say they are thrilled to see another person like them, and to have had a chance to talk to the parents of these young and motivated athletes and say, yes, it was tough, but they can go the distance—I will never forget that feeling."

Danielle is honored as a HearStrong Champion at the 2014 EarQ Compliance and Oticon Product Training Event in Somerset, NJ on May 15 by HearStrong Founder Ed Keller and HearStrong Ambassador Tom Hoover.

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