My name is Kathy Romeo. I grew up in Hudson, MA. and was born with a progressive hearing loss. I attended public school and was mainstreamed, meaning in the same class with hearing students. I had to take speech therapy and lip reading training, losing the majority of my hearing late in High School (complete in my left ear, most in my right ear), to the point where I could no longer hear on phones or listen to music. I attended the National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID) in 1986. It is one of the colleges at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) in Rochester, NY. That is where I first learned American Sign Language (ASL).
I spent the first 35 years not knowing why I have a hearing loss. I spent my early years not letting people know I had a hearing problem. After college, I got my first job. I wanted to prove to myself that I can do as good a job as my hearing peers. I worked for over 20 years a medical reimbursement specialist. Although I had been promoted to a team leader at one company, I never felt I had the same opportunities for advancement as my colleagues.
I was laid off when the company I was working for in 2018 moved the office to Maryland. I had been teaching evening ASL classes at Assabet After Dark Adult Continuing Education program in Marlborough, MA since 2009. Disheartened by my lack of career prospects in medical billing, I decided to open a business teaching ASL and educating people about the deaf world and working with people with sensory challenges. I enjoy meeting people from all walks of life, young and old, and I love that I can be my own boss.
ASL is a beautiful language. Being hearing impaired, or “hearing challenged” in today’s politically correct climate, is a mixed blessing. Teaching, advocating and educating are all important to me. Just as important is promoting tolerance, inclusion and acceptance of those with differences.
The birth of my first child was definitely a turning point in my life. Not only is she a gift to my husband and me, she gave me answers that I yearned for as to why I was deaf. The nurse noticed my daughter had blond streaks in her hair and eyebrow. They did a genetics test for Waardenburg Syndrome and discovered that I most likely have a version of it. Partial albinism and hearing loss are characteristics of the syndrome.
My daughter was the primary reason for me getting my first cochlear implant in my left ear. It worked so well and gave me more hearing than I had in my youth. It was amazing! I ended up getting my right ear implanted a few years later after the birth of my son. There is a lot of controversy in the deaf community about cochlear implants, especially for those born deaf. I’ve been on panels and coached implant recipients, advocating the benefits and right to choose to be implanted.