The following article is featured in the most recent issue of Innovations which should be hitting offices this week!
Derrick Coleman, a running back/fullback for the Seattle Seahawks is the first legally deaf offensive NFL player, as well as the first legally deaf Super Bowl Champion. He makes no excuses for his hearing loss. Innovations caught up with Coleman to talk about his experience with football and hearing aids.
IN (Innovations): Can you give us a quick overview of your background with hearing loss and hearing aids?
DC (Derrick Coleman): I was between the ages of two and three when my parents noticed that my speech was not developing like the speech of a normal child. They took me to the local school for testing in Lawndale, California, and the school noticed my left ear did not respond the way in which it should. So after hearing that, my mother took me to my family doctor and had additional testing done. That’s how they found out I had a hearing impairment that started in my left ear and then progressed to my right ear. So at the age of three, I started wearing hearing aids first on my left ear, and then I progressed to both ears as my hearing became worse.
IN: How did your parents help you see past the frustrations of hearing loss?
DC: My parents helped me mostly, now that I look back on it, by not treating me as if I had a disability. They never allowed me to use my lack of hearing as an excuse for anything. When I would come home upset and afraid, my mother would sit and talk with me and tell me that I was not different from the other kids and not to allow what they say to penetrate to my core meaning or my heart. My parents would also tell me that if the kids who made fun of me did not want to be my friends, then I should move on and not stay in a negative situation. Although at the time I did not want to hear that, I can see how those conversations helped me to not take to heart negative things that people say.
IN: Where did the phrase “No Excuses” come from for you?
DC: “No Excuses” was something I grew up with because my parents would not allow me to make excuses and get away with it. If I came home from school and could not tell my mother what the teacher taught, my reason had better not be because I could not hear. As my dad would say, I can make excuses but no one cares. So needless to say, “No Excuses” has always been a part of my life.
IN: Do you have any memories of frustrations with hearing aids?
DC: Yes, I fought tooth and nail not to wear my hearing aids. Especially when I started junior high school, I did not what to wear them because the girls would look at me as if something was wrong with me, and other kids would make fun of me by calling me four ears and other names. I blamed my hearing aids for all the grief I had to endure. I also had a hard time playing football with my hearing aids. My hearing aids would always fall out or make a lot of feedback noise or would not work because I sweat so much. So, yes, I used to become very frustrated with my hearing aids.
IN: How did that shape you?
DC: That experience help to shape me into the type of person that does not like to pass judgment on others. It allowed me to embrace who I am as a person and embrace others for who they are. The experience helped me to see early on that I would have to work hard for what I wanted in life and that no one would give me anything without hard work and determination from me in return. I just thank God for allowing me to see that what he put in me was more than enough.
IN: You have been wearing hearing aids since you were three. What are some of the changes you’ve seen with hearing aids over the years?
DC: I believe I got my first pair around the age of three. It was a huge, dark brown hearing aid. The changes I have seen are the size of the hearing aids and better technology with clearer sound. Although I am sure these changes have been out there, I did not start to see them until I received my first pair of Starkey hearing aids in 2012.
IN: You are an inspiration to many people with hearing loss. What does that mean to you?
DC: First, let me start by saying I am truly humbled by the love and support I have received from people all over the world. I do not take this responsibility lightly, and as I always say, if my story helps one person then I am a happy man because that one person that I touched can pay it forward and change the life of someone else.
IN: Did you ever think you would be here?
DC: Did I ever think I would be in the NFL and have a Super Bowl Championship? I dreamed about it and prayed that it would happen, but to see it come true … “wow” is all I can say. God is good, and thank you, Jesus.
IN: What makes football your sport?
DC: Because I can hit people without getting in trouble! Seriously, I am a very physical person, and it is a great sport. I grew up watching it and playing it. I also played basketball and ran track. This just so happened to be the sport I did the best in, and I love it.
IN: What are your strategies for dealing with life on the field as someone with hearing loss?
DC: I study the film of both the offense and defense. I overly study my playbook, and I constantly watch the people who play my position and the people who play the other positions. I talk to my quarterbacks to develop a system, and if I can’t hear or read the QB’s lips, I will get his attention so he knows to repeat the play. It’s about staying focused and paying attention to details.
IN: What’s your favorite feature of the Halo™ hearing aids with the TruLink™ app?
DC: I like how the aid works with my iPhone®. I can listen to music and no one would ever know. The sound is clear and picks up a lot of sounds around me.
IN: What is different with Halo that you haven’t experienced with other hearing aids?
DC: Hearing all the other sounds like water dripping in a faucet that I am not even close to. That takes a lot of getting used to because those are sounds that my brain is not used to processing.
IN: What would you tell someone who was thinking about getting a Halo device?
DC: Be ready to hear sounds that you have never heard with clarity, but be patient and give your brain time to process the change without becoming frustrated.