Champion - Blue O'Connell

Musician • Motivator

From: Chicago, IL
Nominated by: The HearStrong Foundation

Discovering Hearing Loss

At the age of 16, Blue received an award for a drumming contest she participated in. During the ceremony, she was unable to clearly hear her name being called. Days later, her drum teacher handed her the award in person and asked why she hadn't claimed it during the ceremony. Since she could not tell if it was her name being called or someone else's, she was afraid of the embarrassment that would follow if she tried to claim an award that wasn't hers. "They called my name out three times and even though no one else went to claim the award, I still could not be 100% sure it was my own name being called," she said. In other instances, teachers mistook her inability to hear in the classroom as sarcasm and she was often punished for it both in school and at home.

Effect on Relationships

Before her cochlear implant and digital hearing aid, Blue was uncomfortable in settings which limited her ability to read lips. "I would avoid parties, group dinners, bonfires, and traveling by car with others," she expressed. This limited her social interaction and made some situations uncomfortable for her. Once she received her hearing devices and could hear again, she was suddenly comfortable talking on the phone, able hear her niece's and nephew's voices, and she no longer needed her friends to interpret for her in settings where she had trouble hearing. Blue feels that this has really taken a lot of the strain out of some of her relationships, especially with friends who would get frustrated when having to constantly repeat themselves.

Why Blue is a HearStrong Champion

Blue has put healthy hearing before the worry of the social stigmas related to having hearing devices. She has even said, "There is nothing shameful about getting hearing aids." In doing so, she has been able to enjoy a fulfilling career with music. She now plays for the University of Virginia hospital, the VSA (Very Special Arts), weddings, banquets, award ceremonies, and in coffee houses. She has released an album which was reviewed highly by critics. She has also taken the time to share her story with others. Blue gave a presentation for the Academy of Otolaryngology's National Conventional which described her journey and encouraged others to seek help for their hearing difficulties.

Get more info about Blue O'Connell here.


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