Saturday, September 01, 2012

HLAA July/August 2012 Magazine Cover

I have had several requests for links to the JULY/AUGUST 2012 Hearing Loss Association of America magazine that features my hearing loss journey. So, I thought I would post some links here in a note for easy access. I was humbled and honored to be able to share my story. And could not have done it without the wonderful support system I've had over the years. Dance the dance of life you've been given with grace, no matter what the challenges may be. You will never be the same again!

Cover Story:

Seen & Heard Article:

Vintage Photo:

HLAA Website: – click on magazine link.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Mom's Sermon as a Lay Speaker/March 1974

Thought I would share this today....

Mom's Sermon/March 1974

The following is an excerpt from a sermon that my mother gave during Lent as a lay speaker in March of 1974. She gave this soul searching speech at Centerville United Methodist Church in Centerville, Ohio where I grew up. I would have been 16 years old at that time and wore hearing aids.  Mom spoke about what her faith meant to her and how it made a difference in her life. During her college years, she was a William Danforth fellowship delegate and spent some time with other young Christian people at a non-denominational retreat during the summer between her junior and senior year. She talked about meeting and talking with William Danforth at this leadership conference, who was the founder of the American Youth Foundation and how he inspired her and influenced her faith. He spent much of his life challenging young people to make the most of their lives, to give nothing less than their best. She talked about several low points in her faith and how God carried her through those difficult times. I won't copy the whole sermon but read on. . .

"The next few years included many high points--marriage, teaching, the arrival of our first child. Then life again presented a challenge; we learned that this first daughter, so dear to us, was deaf--not totally so, but to such a degree that she would never learn to speak normally or understand spoken language without a great deal of special training.

It isn't easy to face the fact that you have brought into the world a child with a built-in problem, and it isn't much easier when it happens again, six years later, with our youngest child. Our sense of helplessness eleven years ago was tempered, however, by the knowledge that even then this two-year old child had a great amount of determination and was a bright, healthy, outgoing child.

The years since then have far exceeded our expectations--with four children to make life interesting, there seems to be almost no limit to the wonderful and rewarding experiences. And if you know Laurie today, you know that it is almost impossible to think of her as handicapped. She is always coming up with something. For instance, just a few nights ago we went upstairs for a bedtime check and found her sound asleep, her arm dangling over the side of the bed, and a heavy alarm clock tied to her wrist. She doesn't like to be dependent on someone else to wake her up, and had come up with this idea: since she cannot hear the alarm ring, she had the clock fastened on her arm so tightly that when the alarm went off the vibration would wake her up. Incidently, it worked--though we discouraged her from going to bed every night with a clock tied onto her arm! With a child like that leading you, pushing you, and lighting the path, how could you help but realize God knows what he is doing!

There are times when she comes home after a hard day and asks, "Why did God make me like this? Why am I different? Why can't I hear like other people?" But I seldom need to answer, as she invariably comes up with a smile and a hug and says, "I don't really care, because I'm so lucky!"

Although we know she faces some trying times, it is encouraging to know that she accepts herself, and has an awareness of and trust in God. With that kind of support, surely she will have strength to carry her through many difficulties. I think she and William Danforth would have gotten along well, for it seems that all she needs is a good challenge and she is off and running. So many times it has been she giving me courage and inspiration, rather than the other way around.

No parent would wish this kind of stumbling block for their child, and there have been many times when I wished it were not so. But I know that her presence has given our lives an added dimension, and that out of this situation have come moments of joy we might not have known otherwise; for me, perhaps, it has resulted in a greater measure of patience."
~Betty Royer/March 1974

Thinking of you, Mom, today and always.  I love and miss you.
Laurie 10/10/11

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

This Is Why I Dance....

When I named this blog "Laurie's Dance With Sound" as I began my cochlear implant journey, little did I know that I would embrace the world of "dance" in a brand new way six years later.

Earlier this year, my husband, Steve, and I walked into the Let's Dance Ballroom Dance Studio, which had just opened in our small town of Maryville, Tennessee, to explore ballroom dancing.  Surprisingly enough, we found a new passion that we can enjoy together as a couple in this new chapter in our lives as “empty nesters.”  Steve and I have been dancing the "dance of life" for the last thirty five years and look forward to dancing together in a whole different way.  After progressing through a few weeks of lessons, I knew that I needed more than just a few sessions a week.  In addition to dancing with my husband (when he was not traveling on business), I started private lessons with our dance instructor, Brandon, to explore the world of ballroom dancing on a new and different level. 

Recently, during one of my private dance lessons, Brandon and his colleague, Chris, asked me, “Why do you want to dance?”  I don’t remember exactly how I answered it but I do know that the question caught me off guard.  I have pondered it ever since, searching for some better answers.  For a few days, my thoughts flowed in my journal and I decided I would put these thoughts into writing. 

Since birth, I have lived with a severe/profound hearing loss and have worn hearing aids since the age of two.  Although I could not hear well, music has always been a part of my life because it filled my heart with emotion and needed no words.  Victor Hugo decribed it perfectly when he said,  "Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and cannot remain silent."  Music was just “pretty noise” for me when I heard it through my hearing aids.  I would play my favorite songs and albums as loud as I could so that I could feel the beat and rhythm through the vibrations and sounds.  Throughout the years, I expressed the music that I "heard" through many different forms, whether it was by playing the piano, ringing handbells in church, dancing liturgically, signing to music, and even swimming on a synchronized swim team.  Expressing a particular song in various ways with grace and passion allowed me to show how my heart and soul felt inside.

In August of 2005, I underwent surgery for my first cochlear implant, and surgery for another cochlear implant followed soon after in January 2007.  These two surgeries changed my life and my hearing dramatically.  For the first time in my life, I was hearing sounds that I had never heard before, sounds that others take for granted.  I spent much time in therapy relearning how to hear with my new “ears.” Now that I can hear almost perfectly with my cochlear implants, music has become “multi-dimensional” with the variations of the different instruments and voices.  It is more than just “pretty noise” to me now and I am experiencing a brand new world of music! 

In my daily life, I wear many “hats.”  I’m a wife, mother, grandmother, daughter, sister, friend, accountant, writer, mentor, and volunteer, just to name a few.  When I dance, I can leave the stressors of “life” outside the door for a while and just be me: Laurie.  The more I dance, the more I feel free and alive.  I lose myself in the music and the dance.  I cannot go more than a few days without music.  And now I cannot go more than a few days without dance.  I cannot find all the words to explain how I feel, but I do know that ballroom dancing has changed something deep inside me, and it is something that cannot be hidden or controlled.  When I dance, whether it is a waltz, tango, foxtrot, rumba, cha-cha, or swing, I feel a shift in my spirit and lose myself in the rhythm of the music on the dance floor.  But at the same time, my heart and soul (along with movements of my body and feet) are another instrument to be played.  When I wear my dance “hat,” I only know that I am listening and responding to the music playing in my ear, and it makes me feel whole.  Learning to ballroom dance has ignited a fervent passion and desire that I cannot deny.

I am changing in more ways than one.  As I shared previously, ballroom dancing has allowed me to “let my hair down” and be free.  It helps me to release the tension and stress I encounter in my daily “dance of life,” keeping my body and brain active, as well as helping me with my mental health.  Also, I suffer from Meniere’s disease, which is a disorder of the inner ear that affects hearing and balance, characterized by episodes of vertigo and dizziness.  I am learning how to balance and control my body and have not had a single “attack” since I started dancing!  I am gaining more confidence and coordination in my body, which is resulting in a better posture and positive outlook on life.  The extra pounds I have dropped are also a plus!

My dance instructor and the owners of the dance studio know that they have inspired me and have given me a new lease on life.  Their faith, belief and trust in me that I can dance in spite of my challenges speaks volumes.  Two weeks ago, I performed my first tango dance routine with my instructor & dance partner to "Santa Maria" at a Friday Night Party at the studio.  I was nervous right up to the time of the performance but as soon as the music started, the butterflies in my stomach went away and I just "danced."  What a wonderful feeling it was to show my joy, my emotions, and deep gratitude that I am able to do what I love as I moved across the floor.  I know that I would not have done this without the miracle of sound through my cochlear implants.

Dancing has freed me to enjoy this moment, this season in my life and makes me feel happy inside.  So, my friends, no matter what is going on in your life today, "Take Life By the Hand and DANCE!"  You will never, ever be the same.....
My Dance Instructor and Partner, Brandon and I after our "Santa Maria" Tango Routine
June 3, 2011

Tuesday, May 31, 2011


It is hard to believe that the month of May is coming to a close.  The month of May is Better Hearing and Speech month.  Cochlear was doing their part by doing a Million Ear Challenge to increase awareness for cochlear implants.  Today I wrote a poem to the tune of "Amazing Grace" for the Cochlear challenge and thought I'd share it with you.  Amazing Grace has always been one of my favorite hymns and I just changed the words a little.  This poem is for my cochlear implant friends, the doctors and engineers, and dedicated to all those who went before us to make it possible to hear today.  And applies to all brands of cochlear implants, not just Cochlear. 


Amazing Grace, how sweet the sounds,
When Cochlear saved these ears of mine!
I fought to hear but now I can,
Was deaf but now I hear!

'Twas hearing aids that taught me to hear,
Enough to relieve my fears.
More precious was the world to me
The day new sounds appeared!

My surgeon promised good to me,
Said ears as good as new...
Cochlear implants are my guide and shield,
As long as life endures!

Through many trials, tests, and surgeries
I have already come.
'Tis faith has brought me sounds thus far,
And Cochlear will show me more!

When we've been there ten thousand years,
Still shining in a world of sounds
We've no less days to sing Cochlear's praise
The day we began to hear!

~written by Laurie Pullins/May 2011

Friday, March 18, 2011

Come Sit With Me for Awhile

I've been away from this blog for awhile, mainly because there hasn't been time to write.  I compose blog posts and thoughts in my head on a regular basis and sometimes write them down in my journal.  But no one benefits UNLESS I put it here!

So, today, I'd like to share with you why I have the pictures and quote on the top of this page.  The two white rockers invite you to come sit with me on my front porch for while.  I love a good cup of tea but it is better shared with a friend or someone I love.  Let's listen to the birds sing together!  

The sound of the gently flowing waterfalls is so soothing to me.  And the wind in the trees reminds me of the One who created this beautiful world just for US.  And I absolutely love the birds.  I found this quote shortly after my first cochlear implant was activated, which fit perfectly with my "Dance with Sound."

Spring has arrived in Tennessee.  The birds are slowly returning to my feeders and I just love to hear their happy songs!  Last night I took time to relax on the front porch in my rocking chair with a glass of wine.  It was so peaceful and relaxing just listening to the birds and sounds of nature.  Made me realize that no matter how busy I get, I really need to just take some time to relax & rejuvenate, even if it is just for a few minutes.

Happy Spring to you from me!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A Tsunami Experience and CI Moment

Questions for the deaf and hearing impaired:
  • Are you prepared for emergencies and major alerts when traveling, especially when it comes to hotel accommodations?
  • Do you let airline personnel and agents know that you would appreciate alerts for boarding times, gate changes, delays, etc.?
  • When checking into a hotel, do you request an ADA kit and let the staff know that you may need special assistance or notifications during emergencies?
When I travel alone through airports and stay at hotels, I am not afraid to let others know that I might miss a message and would appreciate some personal attention. I do this for two reasons…for my own safety and to increase awareness about the needs for the deaf and hard of hearing.  Even though I can hear with my cochlear implants, I usually make sure I ask for assistance, especially when I travel alone. I am still deaf when I am not wearing my cochlear implant processors. I turn them off when I fly (why waste batteries on engine noises) and at night.

My husband and I recently traveled to Hawai’i for business and were staying at the Marriott Waikiki Beach Resort on the O’ahu Island. Our room was on the 27th floor overlooking the Pacific Ocean right near the beach. Last Thursday evening, we had just gone to bed and had turned off the light after a long day. We were planning to get up early the next morning to tour Pearl Harbor and do some sightseeing. I had turned off my “ears” and was doing some reading. We were first alerted to pending danger around 9:22 p.m. by my friend, Evelyn, when she sent me a text message asking if we were okay. And a few more text messages and Facebook alerts came in from other friends asking the same question because they knew we were in Hawai’i. Just as I turned to Steve in confusion, he immediately sat up in bed and giving me the impression he was listening to something. He was hearing announcements and instructions coming through the hotel intercom.  It was difficult for him to understand what was being said because the intercom system kept making crackling noises. (There is no way I would have been able to make out the words even with my cochlear implants on.)  We immediately turned on the TV where we found out about the 9.0 magnitude Japan earthquake. We were shocked to see the massive devastation that had just happened and learned that the earthquake triggered a powerful tsunami that was headed for Hawai’i in a few hours! Steve also received a phone call from a colleague at Hawai’i Electric offering us his home if we needed to evacuate.

Hawaiians are very service oriented and hospitable people.  The hotel staff was well prepared and promised to keep their guests informed on any new developments through the night. There were signs by the elevator in English and Japanese.  We were assured that we were safe as long as we stayed above the third floor. Our hotel was built like a fortress and the staff was well prepared for situations like this.  The tsunami was scheduled to come ashore to the Hawaiian Islands around 3:30 a.m. I immediately jumped out of bed, put my cochlear implants back on and packed my suitcase in case we had to evacuate in a hurry!

We heard tsunami sirens all night long (a new CI sound for me!). We also heard the police on the streets below us telling everyone to get off the beaches and go inland. Needless to say, it was a long night of warnings and we got very little sleep. Steve and I took turns watching the TV and dozing off. We even went down to the deck on the 3rd floor around 3 a.m. to see what was going on. The conference rooms were turned into evacuation centers and there were TV monitors set up everywhere. There was a church next to the hotel and I was comforted when I saw the simple cross on top of the roof. I knew then that we would be okay, no matter what happened. I was reminded of Deuteronomy 31:8 that tells us that "the Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged."  Whenever I am anxious, nervous, upset, or scared, this verse reminds me that the Lord has already gone before me, preparing the way for protection and peace.
It was actually a beautiful and eerie night. The tsunami waves did come ashore and came over the break walls, flooding the beaches and streets, stopping short of the high rise hotels, including ours.  Most of the waves were around four feet but some beaches on the islands reported eight foot waves.  When the sun came up the next morning, the streets and hotel decks were soaking wet. The sky was a beautiful blue color with a few white clouds.  The water was also blue, crystal clear and sparkling in the sunlight. There were sailboats back on the water and a few surfers taking advantage of the big waves. As we looked out at the beach, we could see the seaweed that had washed ashore.
I am so thankful for text messaging, email, Facebook and modern technology. Otherwise, we would not have gotten the messages about the tsunami so quickly. Because Steve is hearing, I don’t usually ask for special accommodations because he takes good care of me.  In the future, though, I think it would be a good idea to make the hotel staff aware that I have a hearing loss in case of emergency.   My husband may not always be in the room with me if I need to be alerted.

While our experience was mild compared to the tragic events and loss of life and property in Japan, we never dreamed in our lifetime that we would experience a tsunami warning.  This was a reminder to me to always be prepared in case of emergency, no matter what the situation is.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

How Would You Encourage a Teenager With Hearing Loss?

Ten years ago I was a college student struggling to hear and take notes in class. Today I returned to my Alma Mater, the University of Tennessee, to speak to graduate students in a Cochlear Implant class. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that I would be a CI recipient OR be speaking in front of a class at a university. A big thank you (again!) goes to Cochlear for making the technology available so others can hear!

My presentation went better than expected and the students were very attentive and had some good questions for me. Which made it easier to share things that I would not have originally presented or thought of. I shared my hearing journey with them, which included discussing some difficult times during my teenage years. One of the questions they asked me was, "How would you encourage a teenager today with a hearing loss who is depressed, isolated, or doesn't want to wear a hearing aid or work with a cochlear implant?" I had to think about that for a minute and said that was a hard one to answer. And have been pondering it ever since.

When I was a teenager in the 60's and 70's, life was hard. Peer pressure reared its ugly head and I felt very isolated. Had very few friends because I talked funny and couldn't hear very well. Was labeled a "snob" many times because I did not respond when my name was called. I felt suicidal at times.  I couldn't talk on the phone and if I wanted to communicate with someone, I had to do it by snail mail or in person. I just wanted someone to listen to me and validate my feelings. And just wanted to have a sense of belonging. Thankfully, I had a wonderful family and support system at home. But not every teenager has that in today's world.

Today, the Internet & technology has made it possible for teenagers to have immediate results and communication skills, something many of us did not have as teenagers. The social media has broken down those barriers of communication and make it possible for the deaf & hard of hearing to connect with the outside world. But instant results when it comes to hearing & understanding with a hearing aid or cochlear implant is a different story. The results are not always immediate and take time.  Working with a hearing aid or cochlear implant is like any other tool and have a learning curve associated with them. Practice and patience is the key to success.

I feel that increased independence leads to a richer life with a purpose. Many of us CI recipients can attest to that. I would encourage parents, audiologists, & medical professionals to learn how to encourage them in a positive way.  They need to know that they are special just the way they are and have a purpose in life. Listen to them, love them, embrace them, & plant seeds of hope so that they can make a difference in their world and for those around them. And pray for them, too. When you do that for them, you give them the power & courage to live a confident, healthy, & positive life.

How would you answer the question? Looking forward to hearing your answers!