by Jamie Hoople
I suffered hearing loss due to a high fever as an infant, but was not immediately diagnosed. I was born into a military family in 1960, and when I was less than a year old, my father was transferred. We moved from California to Zaragoza, Spain.
When I hadn’t spoken by age two, my parents took me to the military doctors. They recommended a renowned specialist in Germany, who examined me and recommended that I be put into an institution for the severely retarded.
Thank goodness my parents didn’t accept this.
They found another doctor, who suggested a hearing test. During the test, my mother and father were thrilled to see me squeeze a toy as beeps came through the headphones. Afterwards, I was fitted with powerful hearing aids. A harness held the hearing aids on my back, with wires going up to my ears.
Based on my condition, my father secured a transfer when I was five. We moved to Colorado Springs, where an exceptional speech and hearing center was located. More focused now, I started many hours of speech therapy lessons with Miss Clara Walker.
I can still visualize Miss Walker carefully forming her lips to say letters, especially the difficult letter “S”. Think about it: your lips don’t move when you make the “S” sound. My parents were overjoyed to hear me start to talk.
I will never forget Miss Walker for being so thrilled with my progress that she scheduled a gathering of colleagues and friends to hear me read from a book. The audience was wonderful and I received a small doll, which I treasured for years.
When my father retired in 1969 and we moved away, I had to say goodbye to Miss Walker. I started third grade in Tampa, Florida and eventually graduated from high school with honors.
In 2002, I enrolled in a sign language class at our community college. I had never learned to sign while growing up, because my parents were told that signing was so much easier to learn than learning how to talk.
A couple in my class was attending with their partially deaf preteen child. They told me how little support there was for hard-of-hearing children. I then realized how fortunate I was that my parents found the training that I needed to function in today’s world — and how fortunate I was to be mentored so carefully by Miss Clara Walker.
I’ve worked for the insurance industry for almost 25 years, and have achieved a Chartered Property Casualty Underwriter designation. Thank you, Clara Walker. I don’t consider myself handicapped and I have a successful career and a wonderful family, thanks to you.