They say that life is filled with many obstacles that we must overcome in order to fulfill our dreams. Meet Austin Chapman, a talented 23 year old filmmaker who depended on others to create soundtracks for him because he was born deaf and could only hear low tones. Austin has worn hearing aids nearly his entire life, but just a few short months ago, he was fit with new hearing aids which gave him the ability to hear music for the first time in his life. Austin joined me this week via Skype to share his inspiring story with us, and to talk about the new contest Phonak and Art Of The Story have partnered up on.
Candace Rose: You were born deaf but recently gained the ability to hear. Can you tell us what it was like the first time you heard something?
Austin Chapman: “I’ve had hearing aids since I was a year old, but about three months ago I got new hearing aids that completely changed my world because with my old hearing aids I could only hear the low tones and it was not very clear at all. It was garbled. With my new hearing aids there was an immediate difference. It was so clear. So loud. So clear. I was in shock. I had tears.
That night me and a group of friends got in my friends car, and he asked me ‘Do you want me to play Mozart or Beethoven?’ I said Mozart. He put on Mozart, and as soon as the song started playing I froze up. I couldn’t move because I was hearing the higher tones for the first time. I’d heard Mozart before, it never sounded good; but for the first time it sounded so beautiful. It was an overwhelming period for me, I broke down. I looked around and my friends, every one of them was crying too. It was the moment I knew my life would never be the same again. It’s so nice now. It was the first time I was kissed by girl. I have no idea what’s going on, but I like it!”
Candace Rose: How has your life changed since you were first fit with your new hearing aid?
Austin Chapman: “I’m really overwhelmed by all the sounds like the traffic, the fan, but I love listening to music now. I listen to music for a couple of hours everyday. I’m also getting better at talking to people and understanding people. I’m getting better and better at because I hear new sounds and know what words associate a sound with.”
Candace Rose: What are some of the exciting things you’ve been able to experience since gaining the ability to hear?
Austin Chapman: “The number one wonderful experience I’ve had is being able to work on my own soundtrack, because I’ve been a filmmaker my whole life but I’ve always left the soundtrack to other people to write. I couldn’t hear them, but for the first time I was able to sit down with my composer, he played the guitar and I was like ‘No, no, I like that; that’s awesome; let’s try that’. We were just going back and forth, and he was showing me how to play the guitar. That’s the coolest experience I never thought I’d be able to actually do that.”
Candace Rose: How many people are affected by hearing loss?
Austin Chapman: “A lot more than people think. In the U.S. there are more than 36 million people who are affected by hearing loss. My mom, she’s not deaf, but she has to wear hearing aids because she’s getting older. She has the small hearing aids that go in. They’re so small you can’t see them.”
Candace Rose: What are some of the technological advances being made?
Austin Chapman: “I’m not sure of the stats. The technology is so much better. Every year computers get cheaper, phones get cheaper and better. And because of that, that triggers over to hearing aid technology, and Phonak has always had higher standards. I don’t know why, but I know it’s a huge difference.”
Candace Rose: Can you tell us about ArtOfTheStory.com?
Austin Chapman: “I almost didn’t write about my experience because it was such a personal story, but my friends were telling me ‘Austin, you have to write in’. I wrote it and the response was overwhelming. The joy is so powerful, and that’s why Phonak.US.com and ArtOfTheStory.com have decided to partner up to find other people out there that have a career choice to be told. To enter the contest all you have to do is write the story about hearing loss and enter on ArtOfTheStory.com or Phonak.US.com. The winner will get $25,000, but we’re also going to make a short film about that person’s experience. Honestly, I can’t wait to read about all the different experiences that people are having with their hearing loss.”