Imagine simple sounds, a refrigerator humming, birds chirping or water running. The petty noises of everyday is silent, unheard. At three, my ears were shut to the world. I lost most of my hearing to a profound level. Doctors advised to enroll me in a deaf school and teach me to sign.
However, my parents placed me in the hearing world and a mainstreamed school. For me to be successful, a private speech therapist was hired. I learned how to properly talk by observing the positioning of my mouth in a mirror, and by placing my hands in front of the teacher’s mouth to feel the vibrations produced by certain sounds. My speech is the result of ten years of therapy. My articulation has a distinct sound; many ask if I am foreign? It’s a different accent they just can’t place.
Lip reading is my main source of communication. My brain is in overdrive trying to understand what was said or why we’re laughing. I’m a great pretender. There are many sounds I don’t hear – P, H, G, K, F and S. My aids are digitally programmed to fill in the sounds I miss. In the classroom or large group setting, the speaker wears an FM system, which transfers directly into my aids. However, technology is man-made and cannot substitute for the God-given sense I just don’t have.
Later, these differences were magnified. I became self-conscious of how I sounded, and with the physical appearance of deafness… the ugly blocks sitting behind my ears. When you’re a child, you don’t realize people are different and you accept them. As you get older, imperfections stand out.
To find answers and attempt healing, I started to search God’s Word for why He had done this. Instead of finding the answers I wanted, I started to see what God intended. I discovered Psalm 46:1, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” This shows God has a greater purpose than our hardships in this world, way beyond our human reasoning.
Another major turning point was in James, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” My life is a constant struggle, but I wouldn’t be the person I am without these hardships.
A few years ago, something was said that forever changed my life, “God closed your ears to the world, so that you may hear His voice.” Now I hear, not through longing and desire, but through acceptance. God allows me to hear what He’s called me to hear. The world is full darkness, yet God has protected my heart through this filter of deafness, so I would long for the light that leads me from the world. I know I can endure for a crown of life awaits me, and this is just a blink and a breath compared to the glory yet to come.
God performed an incredible rescue operation on my life, and changed my way of living forever. God gives us the power to change our hardships into our greatest blessings.
In my background, I had been raised to love God and went to a Christian school, and I had become the great pretender of “being OK.” I could pretend to hear sometimes and try to be a part of conversations but I was in my own little world without anyone knowing of the hurt I was experiencing. I went into a darkness and great anger towards God. I couldn't understand that if God was supposed to love me, why couldn’t He make me normal? That if He was the big God of miracles in the Bible, why couldn’t He heal me? I wanted so desperately to be normal and to fit in. I became angry, depressed, horribly insecure and so lonely I could hardly stand it.
I knew I needed to change for this life of sadness was not worth living. As a young teenage girl, I signed myself up for a local Christian camp and learned about my Father and His great love for me. Something clicked at camp and a transformation begun to happen.
Since that day, many years ago, I became alive and I was new. I started looking at my hearing loss as a part of me and as the most beautiful thing about me. One of the first things I did after this massive shift within was wear my hair up! Before, I would keep my hair straight by my face so no one could see my hearing aids. What the world thought of me no longer mattered anymore and my insecurities are slowly vanishing.
My deafness has shaped and molded me into being fully me. Joy can never escape me. I encountered a new way of living and an entirely new outlook on what was seemingly broken. What the world thought was broken, my ears, is what has made me fully myself. I know that applies to everyone, whatever people say is beyond repair can actually be redeemed and restored. Whatever stories are seemingly broken, can be transformed into good. Our disabilities, whatever holds us back, can be transformed into our greatest ability.
The beginning stages of my life felt like the most tragic thing that would ever happen to me. Looking back, I now see the big picture and that my deafness is not tragic but the greatest blessing that has ever happened to me. Having profound hearing loss has made me who I am, but it does not define. My label is not the “deaf girl” or someone with a “disability” but I am wonderfully made Emma.
Young Life has impacted me the most out of any service I’ve ever done. It taught me that I am not alone in my personal struggles but that everyone has a battle to fight. It changed the way I look at people.
Being mindful of my future, in 2010 I began to intensely study piano and music theory. For pleasure, I started guitar, ukulele, singing lessons and actively performing in my community. In 2015, I added the kick drum to the list of instruments. This was in preparation to compete in the pageant circuit to establish a national platform for hard-of-hearing and deaf. In February 2015, I won the title of Miss San Antonio and am proud to have been the very first Miss San Antonio who is deaf. In the Miss San Antonio pageant, I was honored to receive individual awards for Overall Talent winner, Overall Interview winner and Miss Congeniality. In July 2015, I competed in the Miss Texas Scholarship Pageant where I placed Top 10 as well as received the Inspiration Award, Quality of Life Award, Academic Interview Award and Spirit of Texas (Congeniality). I am so honored to have been a part of such a great organization.