Maggi Summerhill began losing her hearing in her right ear when she was ten years old after a bout with meningitis. She began wearing two hearing aids to help her locate sound, but once she was exposed to teasing and some hitting from her classmates, she quickly ditched the hearing aids. She found that she could get by pretty well without them.
Maggi's escape as a teen was to dive into art-- losing herself for hours into drawing. "When I was 16, I got an apprenticeship with Leo Burnett in Denmark as a layout artist, but I ended up doing marketing and public relations also," said Maggi. "I went there offering to work for free for a week, after that week, I asked If I could stay for another and so on, until they took me on."
Maggi left her home in Denmark when she was nineteen and moved to Madrid to become an artist agent. She worked with painters, illustrators, photographers and special effects people, bringing them opportunities for work. She also dove into writing. Her resume has a long list: PR agent for a Formula Two driver, Personal guide for Chick Corea, creator of a personnel testing company (with a later branch in the UK), a photo shoot for Marlboro Light, a diploma in nutritional medicine that lead to another business selling vitamins and an interpreter for the Sussex police department, translating Spanish and Danish. To top all of that off, she went to law school for two years.
Life began to change when Maggi hit her thirties-- she began to suffer bouts of vertigo and her hearing began to fluctuate. "As I was losing my hearing, I lost the ability to use the phone and later to communicate face to face and I was beginning to feel like a waste of space," she explained. "The most challenging aspect of losing my hearing was accepting how bad it was. I felt like Maggi as I thought of myself had died." At the end of last year, Maggi's hearing plummented to the point that she could no longer hear speech with her hearing aids. Maggi's two sons and her husband struggled to adjust as well, learning new ways to communicate with her. "Joking with me becomes a chore - I mean even I dont think its funny when they finally get me to understand what they are saying," Maggi shared. "Communication becomes very basic, and its something that has always been important to me.
"The boys got used to my hearing going up and down - it has been like that from when they were babies," Maggi continued. "But now I can't understand what they are saying, it feels like a barrier between us and sometimes it's like that with my husband as well. I want to tell him things and I think, 'If I share this with him, I can't predict his exact response,' - then he has to repeat himself and..... the moment is ruined."
Maggi finally took a big step and began to be assessed for a cochlear implant. She found herself crying during the testing as she failed test after test. "It's the acceptance part, it takes time and while you are not able to accept the extent of your deafness and its consequences, you are under so much physical and mental stress you don't even realize it," said Maggi. "Even when you think you are fully there, you can get surprised-- like when I went to the implant assesment and they did the tests; they do a normal hearing test and then a film designed to asses how well you understand clear speech and another how well you lip read, they play these with sound first I was told and then without sound. I couldnt hear anything--I cried! I know I cant hear, but I still cried."
Then there are the bright spots about a world of silence, as Maggi discovered along the way. "Being deaf though has opened a whole new world to me and I have met some fantastic and inspirational people. My writing has become a major part of my life and I have a radio play with two producers at the moment and I'm writing a book. I have an agent and I have plans to teach writing as therapy--hopefully online. I'm really excited-- and having fun again!"