Nominated by: Jennifer Schreiner of The UT Health Science Center
When Jerome was just three years old, his mother suspected he had hearing loss. She often noticed that her son chose to sit closer to noise in order to understand things. This was most pronounced when Jerome habitually sat closer to the television than the other children. When she explained her worries to Jerome's doctor, she received an unwelcome answer: she was being paranoid. It wasn't until Jerome received a standard hearing screening in school at the age of five that he was diagnosed with hearing loss and fitted with hearing devices.
Despite knowing of his hearing loss, Jerome refused to wear his hearing devices as a teenager. Like so many, he didn't want to feel different around his classmates. "I learned all the tricks to 'fool' people about my hearing loss and was very strategic about everything," said Jerome. "I knew not to be in a quiet environment, to avoid soft spoken people, sat in front of the classroom…and of course the smile and nod method was my best friend."
"I didn't let my hearing loss stop me from participating in activities, (but) I didn't attempt to be team captain or a board member (president, treasurer, etc.) because I knew I would get put in situations that would 'reveal' my hearing loss and cause me to explain something I didn't understand myself," said Jerome.
It wasn't until Jerome entered college that he fully recognized the impacts his hearing loss was having on his life. "I was still social and active, but frequently, I ignored a lot of people and misunderstood others unknowingly," said Jerome. "I was getting ready to transfer to SUNY Fredonia to get a Bachelor's in communication disorders, and if I was going to succeed, I had no choice but to get hearing aids." After taking a class in audiology, Jerome was inspired by the information. For the first time in his life, Jerome fully understood the mechanics of hearing loss and how to describe his difficulties to others. "Once I had the confidence to inform others the WHY, then I was able to appreciate the benefits of hearing aids," said Jerome. "I (realized) I was in control of my destiny and decided not to limit myself because of my hearing loss."
Following his passion, Jerome earned his doctorate in audiology in 2011. It was also at that point Jerome underwent surgery to receive bilateral cochlear implants to compensate for his rapidly declining hearing. "The (implants) have opened doors professionally that otherwise would've remained closed," said Jerome. "I can do speech testing without reading lips, I am counseling those who are getting the gift of hearing after many years of a deteriorating quality of life, I am reaching out to youths who also have hearing difficulties."
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A HearStrong Champion is an individual who refuses to let their hearing loss stand in the way of living a successful, well-rounded life. If this sounds like you or someone you know nominate them today!
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