Debbe Hagner

Debbe Hanger HearStrong Champion

Debbe Hagner

Genealogist • Advocate

“You are not alone. There are several books on hearing loss available to read and several support groups to help you became a self-advocate. Don’t be afraid to explore and ask questions about hearing aids, hearing accessories, phone accessories, and cochlear implants. One should encourage their family to learn and understand how deafness affects everyone.”

Discovering Hearing Loss

When Debbe was 4 years old, her grandmother noticed that she wasn’t responding to sounds. She was then taken to get her hearing tested and was immediately diagnosed with hearing loss. Debbe’s parents wanted to provide her with the best tools she needed to succeed in the classroom. She was fit with her first pair of hearing aids right before she entered kindergarten. Her hearing aids made an improvement in her day to day life, but she still relied on lip reading. Later in life, Debbe made the decision to switch to a cochlear implant and her life improved drastically.

Importance of Hearing Better

Prior to receiving her cochlear implant, Debbe relied on facial expressions and couldn’t hear people who weren’t directly in front of her. Today, she is hearing sounds that she has never heard before, like birds singing, leaves rustling, crickets chirping, clocks ticking, and water boiling.

Because of her cochlear implant, her speech has improved tremendously. As a genealogist, she is required to give speeches in front of large crowds. Since she took control of her hearing health, Debbe’s confidence has soared. She feels more comfortable in the back seat of a car because she no longer needs to see someone’s face in order to hear them. She appreciates that she doesn’t need to ask people to repeat themselves as often as she used to. Hearing better has improved her communication and she believes her relationships are stronger because of it. As a world traveler who has been to 25 different countries, it is important that she can hear what’s going on around her. She is much more comfortable while traveling because of her cochlear implant.

Why Debbe is a HearStrong Champion

Debbe is a HearStrong Champion because she is a strong advocate for herself and others. She is always sharing resources to help deaf and hard of hearing individuals live a better life with their hearing loss. She is the president of two local hearing loss chapters as well as chairperson of the State Association.

Debbe has always fought for inclusion for the deaf and hard of hearing community. When she was in high school she worked for a local fire department as an assistant. After an incident at a local school where deaf children didn’t leave the building because they couldn’t hear the alarm, she worked with the department to devise a plan. As part of the fire safety program she created for hearing impaired individuals, she informed the chief that the alarms needed strobe lights. She made an informational video that was sent to FEMA and began to receive a lot of recognition for her work. At 19, she received an outstanding public servant award and 13 other awards from the fire department. She also gave lectures on “Fire Safety for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing” in several cities to Fire Marshals, Firefighters, and Fire Chiefs.

“If a person can, they should take advantage of any medical advances that would enrich their lives. A person should take advantage of learning speech reading, sign language, audio training, and whatever else that can help them.”

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