Missouri color guard performers prove hearing loss can't hold them back

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Posted at 12:50 PM, Oct 29, 2021

BLUE SPRINGS, Mo. — The sounds of Friday night football games are iconic, from roaring crowds to booming marching bands. For some, though, it sounds a bit different.

"It gets muddled," Allie Brace said. "I can't always find the tempo because I don't know what to listen to because it's all coming at me at once."

Brace and her best friend, Faith Arbeiter, are both sophomores on the Blue Springs South High School color guard team in Missouri. They both also happen to be deaf.

Arbeiter lost her hearing when she was 3 months old after falling ill with bacterial meningitis. She wore hearing aids for a while and when she was 7 years old, she got a cochlear implant.

Brace was born with a genetic form of sensorineural hearing loss, which happens when there is damage to the inner ear. She wears hearing aids.

The challenges that come with hearing loss haven't stopped the pair from thriving as color guard performers.

"There's just a rush, a feeling of emotion, happiness," Arbeiter said of performing. "[I'm] just proud to be there."

"Performing makes me feel more confident and more like myself," Brace said.

The teenagers have interpreters who stand in front of them during practices and performances, using American Sign Language to translate what the band director and their coaches are saying, as well as counting the tempo.

"She interprets the counts that are being said, amongst the guard whenever they're shouting the counts. Sometimes I don't hear it because it's from behind me." Arbeiter said.

There have been some anxiety-inducing moments: Arbeiter once had her cochlear implant fall off her head in the middle of a performance.

Brace said every once in a while, she'll lose sight of the interpreters. In those cases, she's able to read the lips of the people around her to try to stay on tempo.

Both girls said joining the color guard has given them a community of supporters who accept them for who they are.

"This has really given me people to talk to and more friends and a sense of unity," Brace said.

"They all love me, and they all recognize my hearing loss, but they don't let that tear me down,"Arbeiter added.

Their biggest cheerleader is band director Kenny Hansen.

"These two performers are fantastic," he said. "They're examples of what we would want every person to be."

Hansen said that from the outside, no one would ever know the challenges these two teens have had to overcome. He added that while the school has tried to provide the resources to help them succeed, Arbeiter and Brace deserve all the credit for their good attitudes and determination.

"That's, to me, awe-inspiring, and it's inspirational to me," Hansen said. "And I just really appreciate it. They're amazing."

The pair hopes to show anyone who deals with any sort of obstacle that it doesn't have to define who they are.

"I think that a lot of people think that because you have a hearing loss or disability that you can't do hard things," Arbeiter said. "What I think that people should know is that it's not impossible. You just have to believe that it's possible."

This story was originally published by Callie Counsellor at KSHB.