America’s Got Talent (AGT) gives unknown artists a shot at the big-time with a national stage and once-in-a-lifetime media exposure. This past season, a new starlet hit the stage with a shy smile and a ukulele. After explaining her connective tissue disorder and subsequent hearing loss with the help of Sarah, her interpreter, Mandy Harvey performed an original song called “Try.” Her stellar performance prompted judge Simon Cowell to hit his golden buzzer, sending her directly to the live shows. She continued all the way through the competition, finishing fourth in the finals and even performing another stunning original song called “Release Me” while signing.
It may be counterintuitive to individuals who don’t struggle with hearing, but people who are deaf or hard of hearing can certainly perform music, sometimes similarly to or better than those with normal hearing ability. Mandy is in good company of course, as Beethoven, one of the most distinguished musicians and composers in history, also became deaf later in his life. However, even knowing this fact, many AGT fans were still left wondering how it is possible for her to perform or compose without being able to hear what she’s singing and playing.
How Mandy Persevered
At first, even Mandy herself gave up on all hope of singing, assuming her vocal ability had disappeared along with her hearing. But after some gentle coaxing from her father, she realized her singing prowess remained. She just had to find a new way to make sense of her instrument without auditory feedback.
Mandy is very open about the techniques she uses to sing her songs accurately. She attributes part of her skill to the near perfect pitch she was born with and the muscle memory she developed during the first 18 years of her life, when she still had partial hearing. Music has been her passion since she was four years old. She joined the choir as a child and started college as a music major, giving her plenty of experience to draw on later in life. She also uses a visual tuner during practice, which shows her whether she is on or off pitch.
When it comes to performing, the prospect of being on stage can be especially daunting. However, Mandy has learned to let go of her fear and work with the senses she still has, such as feeling the vibrations of the music through the floor. She also relies on small cues from her fellow musicians to tell her whether she needs to go slightly up or down in pitch. Altogether, this makes her just as outstanding a singer as she was when she had hearing, although she admits the experience of singing without sound is a little disconcerting.
Even if you don’t have near-perfect pitch and an extensive track record in music, you can still sing or perform if you are deaf or hard of hearing. Many vocal coaches and instructors are open to working with people of all skill levels and hearing abilities. Each kind of hearing loss is different, so you will likely have to experiment to find the perfect blend of techniques and aids that allow you to feel most comfortable while performing. Try adjusting the volume of the music, using a finger or earplug to intensify the feeling of music within your head, focusing on vibrations or another method of your own design. If Mandy can accomplish her goal, you may be able to as well!
Conquering Mental Block
Believe it or not, it may not be physical ability holding you back from your singing aspirations – your mental state can also greatly affect your vocal pitch and tone. High stress can make your body tense, causing your notes to go flat, or the anxiety of embarrassing yourself on stage can be so immense you can no longer bring yourself to sing. These are understandable feelings, but they must be overcome to produce beautiful, strong sound.
Mandy had many mental blocks to surpass before she was ready to utter a single note, let alone perform on stage. When she first realized she had completely lost her ability to hear, she was in the middle of class, pursuing her degree in music at Colorado State University. She waited patiently for her professor to start dictation, but the start never came. When she realized her hearing was completely gone, she fled in tears, dropping out of the program shortly after and sinking into a year-long depression.
In the years that followed, she fought her way back to the stage with the support of her family and friends. Soon, she was confident enough to book a gig, then another, and then even more. She released three albums to prove her skill to herself, and she hasn’t looked back since.
Take Control of Your Hearing Health With Davis Family Hearing
The truth is, anyone can sing, play or compose music, even if they happen to be deaf or hard of hearing. In Mandy’s case, her love of music kept her going and searching for an alternative way to perform, and you can do the same. At Davis Family Hearing, we want to make your life as comfortable as possible so you can pursue your dreams with confidence. Our Board Certified Audiologists specialize in hearing aids, cochlear implants, bone anchored implants, tinnitus treatment and more. If you would like an assessment or wish to learn more about our services, contact us at (352) 666-8910.
Mandy Harvey/AGT YouTube
Mandy Harvey/Stories YouTube