Pat Dobbs loves going to the opera, even though she can’t discern the melody from the other notes. She has cherished music and the piano since childhood (especially Debussy: “His music brings me to other worlds”), and her recent struggle with music, in part, led her to create the Hearing Loss Revolution and its Nine Guiding Principles, reprinted below.
Pat started taking piano lessons around age 12, although, she says, “I feel like I was born knowing how to play the piano—kind of like an intuitive experience.” She loved playing around with notes and chords on her own throughout childhood. She told her parents that when she got married, instead of throwing her a big wedding, she wanted them to give her a piano.
As a senior in high school she had a teacher who finally “got” her and showed her “how to bring out the beauty” of music. She went on to major in piano at Ithaca College, and play as an accompanist for several singers.
During college, Pat began losing her hearing, but it didn’t affect her enjoyment of music for a while. When she married at 27, her parents bought her a Steinway upright, “and today that piano is my most treasured possession. It is in the center of my home where I can see it and play it all the time.”
Her hearing continued to decline, though, and at 60 she was fitted with a cochlear implant. “With the implant I am blessed to be able to hear what people are saying. But music, especially the high ranges, sounds very tinny,” and the melody doesn’t stand out from other notes—making it difficult to find as much joy in playing the piano. At the opera, however, she is drawn to “a feeling of excitement and knowing how beautiful the music is. Maybe it’s feeling it, remembering it, and enjoying the acting too.”
She is confident that as her brain adapts to this different way of hearing through the cochlear implant, the music will come back as well. She explains, “When I first got my cochlear implant, I heard sounds—like birds singing, crickets chirping, the refrigerator humming, typing on a keyboard—but didn’t know what those sounds were. I had to relearn what certain sounds were. I believe it is the same for music. So as I start to listen to simple melodies and ones that I am familiar with, I will relearn to hear music.”
Today Pat is Founder of the Hearing Loss Resource Center and President of the Morris County, New Jersey, chapter of the Hearing Loss Association of America. Her positive, clear-eyed, and self-responsible outlook on her ongoing relationship with music is also evident in the empowering principles she has written for people with hearing loss.
© Pat Dobbs 20141. Our lives define us, not our hearing loss.2. We’re intelligent, engaged, and valued in spite of our hearing loss.3. We’re the heroes of hearing loss, not its victims.4. We advise people what we need them to do so we can hear them better.
5. We are honest with ourselves and others; we don’t pretend to hear what we don’t hear.
6. We use Assistive Listening technologies proudly, and advocate for installing them in public places.
7. We see the humor when we misunderstand what people say, and we are able to laugh at it.
8. We accept with grace the hearing challenges that we cannot change.
9. We are grateful for our courage and strength in living these Principles.
Go Pat! Love your article and the spirit and will behind it. Wishing you all continued success in relearning the music! Debussy is on his way back!
Thanks so much for your support Marylou. Yes I really do believe that Debussy’s music is heaven sent. And I so want people with hearing loss to “come out of the closet” with their hearing loss. That’s where the Hearing Loss Revolution and its 9 Principles come into play.
You are amazing! I love what you’re doing and I think you are incredible!
Thanks Lois. Please spread the word….. Pat
Hi Pat. Great articles. ,love the progress and who you are to bring this to others .
I have passed it on to a good friend .
Thanks Allen. Thank you for passing on to a good friend. Also please check out more articles on music and hearing loss at GrandPianoPassion.com. Also I just posted new website at HearingLossRevolution.com.
What a wonderful,l uplifting article and resource. I’m looking forward to reading more of the featured articles. I’ll be passing this along to my colleagues at our school program. Take care, Colleen
Thanks Colleen. You can read more about music and hearing loss great website -at GrandPianoPassion.com. Also I just posted new website at HearingLossRevolution.com. I will be posting a free and very uplifting videos on The Hearing Loss Revolution in a few weeks. I’ll let you know when it’s posted. It will be followed by another one on the Nine Practical Principles of the Hearing Loss Revolution.
Wonderful article, Pat! I didn’t know that you too cannot hear melody…As you know I can’t hear music at all and had given up on training my brain. I may pursue it once again thanks to you! :)
Dear Judy – Thank you. Don’t give up on hearing music. You had to re-learn what different sounds were when you got your CI – So why can’t we re-learn music. I am starting with simplest and that is rhythm – rap music for that. There are other wonderful articles on GrandPianoPassion.com. Also I just posted my new website at HearingLossRevolution.com. In a few weeks I’ll be posting a free video on the Hearing Loss Revolution and it will be followed by the 9 Principles and then followed by the Four Truths for People with Hearing Loss.
Awesome biography! Reminds us w/hearing devices that it is a constant relearning process between before hearing loss/after hearing loss. I LOVE your ‘never give up’ attitude Awesome work! Your DC roomie……Jeanni
Dear DC Roomie, Thank you so much for your positive words. You can read more about music and hearing loss great website -at GrandPianoPassion.com.
Also I just posted new website at HearingLossRevolution.com. I will be posting a free and very uplifting videos on The Hearing Loss Revolution in a few weeks. I’ll let you know when it’s posted. It will be followed by another one on the Nine Practical Principles of the Hearing Loss Revolution.
Very interesting article! Didn’t know that about you, Pat! I now have the old, old huge upright that my parents got for me, used, when I was about 5. It’s an off brand, but with long strings so the sound is excellent. Not only do I wear hearing aid charms (from Hayleigh’s Cherished Charms), but I’ve started calling my glasses, my “seeing aids”, and who’s ashamed to let others see the fancy ones of those that they wear! When someone comments on my pretty “earrings”, I take off a hearing aid and show it to them!
Hi Netagene, I love that you take off your pretty earings and viola – show them your hearing aids! Part of the “Hearing Loss Revolution” is that we love showing off our hearing aids so much that all the fashion designers are trying to make partnerships with the hearing aid manufacturers to have designer hearing aids. Of course Heyleigh Cherished Charms is right on that track.
To read more about music and hearing loss read more from GrandPianoPassion.com. Also please check out my new website at HearingLossRevolution.com. In a couple of weeks I’ll be posting a free video on the Hearing Loss Revolution. You can sign up for it now if you like.
I hope you’re playing your piano
How do I know you for almost 20 years and not know you majored in music? What else don’t I know about you, darlin’?
Three months ago I had my cochlear implant switched on. I love music and played the oboe professionally for 10 years. I tinkle on the piano. I think I can hear what I play because I can see the music in front of me. I want to share these principals with everyone. Thank you.
Elaine, thanks for reading and thank you for sharing your experience!