Champion - Rev. Johnnie Mathis

Communicator • Believer

Nominated by: Dr. Scott Marquardt of Clarity Hearing

Life-long Hearing loss

When Johnnie was about six-years-old, he first realized he had a hearing loss. "The teachers would place my desk in the front row so I could hear," said Johnnie. While he didn't seek treatment, Johnnie said he lived a normal, yet slightly silent, life. "I became very good at lip reading to compensate for my loss," he said. "Many times I pretended to hear others when I had no clue what was being said."

Asking for Help

It was Johnnie's wife who suggested he see a specialist to have his hearing formally tested. "Others were noticing I had hearing impairments," said Johnnie. After his evaluations showed he did, in fact, have a significant hearing loss, Johnnie was fitted with hearing devices and hasn't looked back since. "I'm more confident and able to communicate with others (with my hearing devices). I heard birds chirping, a clap of thunder, ringing church bells…I cried I was so happy to be able to hear once again."

Then, in the 1990s, Johnnie underwent reconstruction surgery on both ears to restore 90-94% of his hearing. The operation was a success.

Conquering Cancer

In 2006, Johnnie was diagnosed with vocal cord cancer. After completing 38 radiation treatments, his cancer was gone, but so was his hearing. "I found out later that (hearing loss) was a side effect of radiation," said Johnnie. He returned to wearing his hearing devices, just as he began work as a volunteer hospital chaplain. "I see some patients who have cancer and also have the privilege of talking to those who have hearing problems. I reassure them there is hope and they can make it through whatever obstacle life throws their way."

Why Johnnie is a HearStrong Champion

Johnnie is a HearStrong Champion because of his resilient spirit in the face of adversity and his ability to encourage others to overcome their own struggles, including hearing loss. "Many (of the people I see with hearing loss) feel comfortable with me knowing I understand the difficulty they have not hearing. I reassure them to seek help to get a hearing device so they can hear the limitless sounds around them and be able to have more confidence in themselves and communicate better with others."

Johnnie receives his award from Ed Keller (president of EarQ and founder of HearStrong), Cedric Ceballos (NBA Legend), and Scott Marquardt (audiologist)

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