She took the stage shoeless, her back slightly turned to the audience as she used visual cues to coordinate with her band. She smiled slightly in anticipation of her performance, as if she were about to share a secret with the audience. The music started and she began to sing — her voice sweet and lyrical, gaining in strength as the song built energy. I couldn’t believe her skill and finesse — especially because she was doing it all without hearing a thing.
Mandy Harvey is deaf, but also an accomplished singer, songwriter and musician. Her performance was one of the highlights of this year’s Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) convention. She is living proof that hearing loss does not need to keep you from pursuing your dreams.
You may remember Mandy Harvey from Season 12 of America’s Got Talent (AGT). Her AGT audition earned her a golden buzzer from Simon so she moved automatically to the live shows and finished in fourth place in the competition. You can watch her AGT performances here.
Between songs at the convention, Mandy shared her hearing loss journey. She grew up as a hard of hearing child, getting by in school by always sitting in the front of the classroom. Shy and awkward with peers due to her hearing loss, she retreated into music, which she was still able to enjoy despite her hearing difficulties. She had hopes to become a music teacher.
After high school, she enrolled in music school, but once there, her hearing loss took a sudden turn for the worse. She could no longer hear the music she loved so much and had to leave school. She was now functionally deaf.
After a period of despair, Mandy decided to learn American Sign Language (ASL) and get involved in the deaf and hard of hearing communities. Meeting others who had overcome adversity, she found the courage to try music again. While she cannot experience music the way she did before her deafness, she has learned to enjoy it differently. She hopes her story will inspire others with hearing loss to find new ways to pursue their passions. I think she is a great role model for us all, hearing loss or not.
Mandy’s performance at the HLAA convention was incredible! She cannot hear but sang beautifully — on tune and in time with the accompanying music. She used the vibrations in the music and eye contact with her band’s musicians to stay in sync. Mandy’s repertoire was varied, including covers of popular songs and original songs she has written about her life experiences.
Often Mandy accompanied herself on the ukulele or piano, but when she didn’t, she would sign the lyrics as she sang them. I do not know much sign language, but I could feel the meaning as she sang. The combination was extraordinarily expressive and quite exquisite. If you haven’t seen her perform, visit her website to experience it yourself.
Mandy Harvey is living proof that with hard work and passion you can accomplish anything. We need to remember her example so that we never let our hearing loss keep us from pursuing our own dreams, whatever they may be.
HLAA’s annual convention is always one of the highlights of my hearing loss year. I enjoy seeing friends, making new ones, exploring innovative products in the exhibition hall, and learning at the presentations and workshops. I always leave feeling inspired by all we can accomplish as people with hearing loss. This year even more so because of Mandy Harvey.
Readers, are you letting your hearing loss get in the way of your dreams?