by Jonathan Mosher
15 years ago, I failed the newborn hearing screen. The hospital told my mom that it was probably fluid in my ears and it would clear up. We went for a follow-up 2 weeks later and I failed again. Two more weeks went by and I failed again. I was finally diagnosed with a severe/profound hearing loss in both ears. I received hearing aids and started receiving Auditory Verbal Therapy when I was 9 weeks old. This is my story that started with a test….
My name is Jonathan Mosher and this is my mom, Patrice Spillane. I am 15 years old and I am fully mainstreamed as a freshman in private high school in NC. I received my first cochlear implant on my left ear at 12 months of age and on my right ear when I turned 5. I received speech therapy for 9 years. At that point I “closed the language gap!”
Today, I’m going to share with you 3 aspects of my life. Sports, Social Life, and the Technology that makes it all possible. I have been playing a variety of sports since I was 3. Sports have taught me much more than how to dribble a ball. I’m going to tell you a little about my circle of friends who I’ve met along the way. And lastly, I’m going to tell you about the amazing technology that has helped me to get me here.
When my parents were deciding whether I should get a cochlear implant, they considered several different things. They wanted me to have a life full of opportunities and few limitations. They wanted me to be able to live in a hearing world, go to college, have a career and be independent. Playing sports was one of those opportunities.
I’ve participated in sports all my life. I played at the local YMCA starting when I was 3. I played t-ball, flag football, soccer and basketball. My mom used to talk to the coaches before the season started to give them a heads up that I was deaf. She doesn’t do this anymore. I’m taking on the responsibility of advocating for myself. Now, I speak with the coaches, athletic directors and referees prior to the games as needed. I explain to them that I have implants and they’re what I use to hear.
Other parents of children with hearing loss often ask me about playing sports and if I had to make any adjustments. When I played t-ball, we had to remove the foam from the inside of the batting helmet near the coil. We also had to pull the sides of the helmet at the ears when putting it on my head.
I often played the quarterback position when I played flag football since I’m not able to play tackle. It would be too much of a risk to take to be hit in the head, which inevitably would happen. I eventually stopped playing flag football in order to spend more time with basketball and soccer.
I took swimming lessons for 6 years. We learned the back stroke, breast stroke, butterfly and freestyle. When the coach was teaching, the students typically sat on the side of the pool. If I needed to hear what was being said, my mom brought over a towel to dry my hair and the processor. Most of the time I just watched the other students and did what they did. I no longer take swimming lessons, but I now can hear when I’m in the pool. My manufacturer introduced Water Wear several years ago.I can wear Water Wear with my Rondos or my Sonnets. The first time I heard underwater, I didn’t realize how loud it was. I can hear water splashing, kids screaming and bubbles rising. Before water wear, I would just hang out and tell people that I’m deaf. Now I can talk with my friends and family.
I have been playing soccer and basketball with my school since I was in 5th grade. We live in the south, which is hot and humid in the summer. During soccer season, I sweat…a lot. My implants are sweat resistant, but I still wear mini ear gear to help with the moisture. I have to wash them out after each game. I have used ear hooks and retention ear molds to help keep my processors on during a game. I wear the ear molds only when playing sports. They’re too uncomfortable to wear on a daily basis. I have a headband, which is specially designed for implants, but I don’t wear it. It messes up my hair. #keepmyhairfabulous
During soccer or basketball, I am able to hear the players and I can also hear the coach from the benches. They call the plays and call my name. They treat me like any other player. If my batteries go out during a game, then they communicate by using hand signals. I have met some of my closest friends either on a court or on a field. I’m recognized as a valuable part of the team and my school.
Playing sports has taught me a number of things. I have been learning teamwork, leadership, sportsmanship, perseverance, humility and confidence.
My mom is a speech pathologist. She worked at the NC School for the Deaf and at a magnet school for the hearing impaired before I was born. We joined a parent support group when I was 9 weeks old. My parents, my brother and I were able to meet other families having the same experience. We were very active with the group for 5 years.
I also started going to Spring Camp Cheerio in NC every May. It is a weekend-long camp for families with children with a hearing loss. The camp offers canoeing, rock climbing, archery, hiking, etc. We have attended every year for the past 15 years. It has been a wonderful opportunity to grow up with other kids who live a similar life to mine. I have attended other camps as well throughout NC, Maine and Michigan. This past summer, I went to a leadership camp for a week with 7 other teens with MED-EL cochlear implants. I was one of the leaders of 64 campers who came from around the country. Attending camps has been an exciting and important part of my childhood. I live in the hearing world with lifelong relationships with other kids like me.
I feel like I have close relationships with my friends at school too. We go to the movies, go out to eat, have bonfires, parties, play sports and hang out. I feel it’s what most teenagers are doing. We make jokes about each other. On the field, they call me Def Leopard, OG (original gangster) Deaf and Lil Hearing. We play around a lot but we have each other’s backs.
I’ve been driving for over 6 months now. My mother and I have discussed my awareness while driving. She reminds me that I need to wear both implants at all times to make sure I can hear and localize sirens and other cars in general. In case I were to be pulled over (let’s hope not) I plan to mention that I am deaf. It’s important that the officer is aware that there is a possibility that I could misunderstand something he says. Mentioning my hearing loss is a way to advocate for myself. And my confidence in being able to advocate for myself has been developed through all aspects of my life including sports, family and school.
This may sound like a no-brainer, but I can handle interactions in the community on my own. I am completely comfortable ordering food from a drive-thru. I can talk to my doctor on my own without anyone speaking for me. Those little things in life I don’t want to take for granted.
As I mentioned before, I am bilaterally implanted. My first processor was the Tempo, baby BTE. Several years later, I wore the Opus 2. Now, I alternate between wearing my Rondos and my Sonnet processors. Rondos are a single unit processor that just sits back behind my head and the Sonnet processors are the behind the ear processors.
I am often asked how I use my phone. I talk on my iPhone the same way you would. I’m also asked how I listen to music. I use different ways depending on the situation. I can use a direct cable to plug in my iPhone straight to my implants.
I’m also asked if I enjoy music and how I listen to it. I LOVE music! My favorite genres include the music of the 70s, 80s and 90s. With my implants I am able to play percussion in the band at school. On my phone, I can use a wireless connection though Blue Tooth. I can also use over the ear headphones. I honestly prefer to use headphones most of the time. There is a lot of technology out there, but for me, simpler is better.
Like every other teenager in America, I text often and use FaceTime. I’m active on social media such as Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook and other news networks.
I use closed captioning at home on TV, on my phone when watching Youtube and in my classroom when watching videos. At the movie theater, they offer closed captioning devices. The one I have used the most has a long arm and it rests on the floor. My mom would prefer that I use it every time, but it’s not needed in all cases.
The Roger Pen is an amazingly simple piece of technology. It is very easy to use. I have battery packs with built in receivers that I wear. All I do is turn on the Roger Pen, sync it with the receivers by pressing a button then aim it to whomever is speaking. Another cool factor about the Roger Pen is that there are no cables. My biggest challenge is to remember to charge the dang thing!
I’ve given you a glimpse in the life of a teenage boy who likes to play ball, hang out with his friends and use awesome technology. Yeah, I’m battery operated, but I don’t feel that I’m much different from my friends. At the end of the day, deafness doesn’t define me. Fifteen years ago, my parents dreamed that their baby boy would have every opportunity possible. I take honors classes in a mainstream school. I live in a hearing world, enjoy sports, enjoy music, have great friendships and I can advocate for myself. I’m very thankful for the decision my parents made 15 years ago. I would have made the same decision myself.