By María Victoria Diaz

A big treble clef over a staff with colorful music notes When I was born I was diagnosed with grade III microtia and atresia on my left side and I had a shorter jawbone on that side too.  I realized just recently how hard that was for my parents.  I was their first child and when they saw their baby missing her left ear, their world crumbled.  Fortunately, that has not been a big deal for me.  When I was a child, kids sometimes were cruel; but I had opportunities for revenge.  I told scary stories I invented about how I lost my ear. My only memory of fear was a treatment with electrical things pinching my face that the therapists used on me to help accommodate my face gestures. I think they did a good job because people notice I have something different going on with my face, but usually they can't identify easily what it is. The only sad moment related to my disability that I remember, was when a doctor suggested that I change my mind about studying music because of the loss of hearing I was presenting in my right side.  I was supposed to become deaf and since I was not a musical genius I should better reconsider being a musician. I decided to study engineering; maybe I would create new cool things! I dreamt of then. 

Today, my right side hearing is not bad and I still have zero hearing on my left side.  You could assume I am just another Latina in the US with broken English that doesn’t look at you if you speak by her left.  If you are speaking English, you probably barely notice she is looking at your lips to understand her second language.

I recently had one of the most extraordinary experiences of my life: I experienced stereo for the first time a couple of weeks ago and now I know how amazing it sounds!   I remember when I used to teach audio technology to undergraduate musicians eager to know about technology.  I always finished my explanation of stereo design with something like, “I guess”; or “this is the intended outcome for the audience, but you tell me”; or “I don't know if it is really THAT special.” 

Today, I would spend hours around this basic concept of stereo. 

Back to the story I wanted to share.  I play my flute for fun in a choir, and I drive the conductor crazy when I don't follow his instructions or don't listen to others to start right on time ... “Uhmmm, we should try one of these bone conduction headphones,” he said, "that way you can have your only ear opened and listen to my instruction through the headphones.” 

“What are you talking about?”,  I replied.  He didn't realize that maybe; just maybe, I could improve my hearing or even hear from my left side!!! 

That night I read and read again.  “Uhmmm maybe ... let's try, why not?”  And I asked my best friend, Amazon, to bring me one of that toys- a chip bone conduction headset. 

After I received it, it took one week for me to open the package.  I confess that I was so nervous!  I told my daughters, “OK girls come and support your mom, we are going to try this.” 

My little girl chose the music- the Jonas' brothers ... and as I felt the sound coming through my left side, it was amazing!  I reacted immediately, “Please girls I need real music!!!!  Give me Vivaldi, or Boling!  I can't spend my first stereo experience hearing with this music.”  Then, I cried and cried, the instruments suddenly had legs and danced … the violins moved across the stage and I was wondering if the bass always was that deep.  Music has been always my friend, my love, and my companion, but now it is better than ever. 

I felt the distance, the color, the movement, and the magic of music covering the room!  I confirmed to like jazz, I know for sure bossa nova music is the best, and I am listening to suggestions to experience music I used not to like.  It seems that I will like 90's rock now that I can hear in stereo with my new headset, the theory says musicians and engineers worked hard to make instruments move around using stereo. 

That day my mom came to our house excited.  And then, I realized how hard, how difficult it was for them - my parents, when I was born.  You can’t imagine how hard it is for parents to open the door of opportunities for kids with any unexpected difference. 

The difficult part has been to explain hearing people what all this is about … why stereo is THAT important! Do you know?  

I invite you to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and experience their reality; maybe then we can all speak the same language, the one that comes from the heart. 


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