- June 4, 2019
For 27 years, Jamie Lirones sometimes felt as if she were stuck in a long, tin-can tunnel.
Growing up with hereditary hearing impairment, the Ocoee resident’s world was marked by diagnoses of processing disorders, vertigo, roaring and ringing in her ears, severe sound distortion and being labeled as spacey.
At times, her hearing would come and go. And when it went, her ears would feel numb and cold. She was hypersensitive to high pitches and deaf to low pitches. And when it came to home-schooling her 6-year-old son, David — who also is hearing impaired — the two would communicate largely by yelling to hear each other.
But on Friday, Nov. 1, Lirones laughed and cried interchangeably as a doctor turned on her first pair of hearing aids, allowing her to hear clearly for the first time in her life.
When Lirones was growing up, her hearing impairment often was mistaken or misdiagnosed as multiple processing disorders. She could hear to an extent, but sound was distorted, and sometimes, she only received gaps of sound at a time as her hearing faded.
"At first, I couldn’t help but just keep going back and forth from laughing at it and crying. It’s really touching. They (at Miracle-Ear) take the time to work with each and every single person that comes in with a smile on their face." - Jamie Lirones
“Basically, nobody could quite tell all of what I was trying to think or purvey onto any situation, because it just seemed like I was much happier being quiet,” she said. “(That) was the truth, because if I talked in one environment I was too loud, or I talked in another and was too quiet. It got to the point where I was like, ‘I’m just going to be quiet.’ I got saddled with the name ‘Space Case,’ because it seemed like everything happened and then here comes my understanding of it.
“I learned how to read lips pretty quickly, so it’s not like I didn’t have any clue what people were saying,” she said. “I would just get tired of trying to interpret things. Nobody knew that I needed to learn sign language.”
As she got older, her hearing impairment began to take a toll on her learning in a typical classroom environment. She slept a lot in class, and much of her struggles were chalked up to processing disorders. However, she never had her hearing analyzed.
Her hearing got worse after giving birth to David, with whom she was in labor for days. Something changed during labor, she said, and she suffered significant hearing loss afterward.
“I’m only getting gaps of sound at a time without the hearing aids,” she said. “It actually led to vertigo. There was roaring and ringing in my ears, and at times, my hearing would go completely out of one ear or both. They would go numb or cold, and I could only hear certain pitches.”
And after David was born, Lirones couldn’t react to sound. Instead of more noise with a newborn in the house, her hearing loss caused her whole world to become quieter, making it hard to discern what was happening.
She developed many coping methods from resulting anxiety over time, including martial arts and developing her own book on stress responses in the body. She also is certified to teach yoga to children and currently is in a program for cognitive behavioral therapy and pursuing natural wellness.
Now, she’s using her experience to help David, who she and her husband believe also deals with hearing loss. They are trying to find a similar exam so he gets the help he needs earlier than she did.
“I was always just presumed to be a meltdown child or an angry child, and I wholeheartedly believe I would’ve (had) a different perspective if I’d had hearing aids a lot faster,” she said.
Lirones’ life changed recently as she was leaving the Ocoee Plaza. A sign caught her eye about the Miracle-Ear store’s free hearing exams. She went in for her free hearing exam and found out she needed hearing aids. It was after she inquired about the cost that her hearing-care professional told her she might qualify to receive the gift of sound from the Miracle-Ear Foundation, which offers hearing aids and follow-up services at no cost.
Lirones qualified for the program, and on Nov. 1, she was fitted with a new set of hearing aids. For the first time in 27 years, she could hear clearly.
“At first, I couldn’t help but just keep going back and forth from laughing at it and crying,” she said. “It’s really touching. They (at Miracle-Ear) take the time to work with each and every single person that comes in with a smile on their face. I didn’t ask for these — she went above and beyond to see if I qualified for this program. I cried a lot.
Now, Lirones is hearing things without distortion or interruption. She can have conversations without asking someone to look at her so she can read their lips, and she doesn’t have to overly explain herself or apologize.
“With hearing aids, I don’t have any of those issues, which is amazing,” she said. “Especially communicating in the house, our house echoes a little bit so I’m able to put the volume down and it makes for a much better homeschooling situation, especially without two people going back and forth with, ‘Huh, what?’ over and over. It also takes a lot of anxiety out of work life situations.”
She also watches videos of David as a toddler and hears his voice differently for the first time. In fact, she said, everyone sounds different, but for once, they aren’t distorted. And both her husband’s and David’s reactions were much the same — they say Lirones is a lot quieter now that she’s not having to yell.
“It’s been a huge change,” she said. “I’m hearing things all over for the first time that I would’ve never assumed to be that different. This is the first time I’m hearing clearly. ... I don’t have to be the weird one out. It’s not that I care that I look different or act different, but not having so many things to cope with to get by, it’s a huge change.”