The Struggle of Playing Sports with Hearing Loss

Andrew Griffiths, Associote Photo Correspondant

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Sports are something that many of us grow up playing and being around for at least some part of our life. Some people excel and move on to play further in life, while others may not be good or lose interest in the sport. Many people have this in common but something we don’t all have is a disability that impairs our ability to hear.

Ryan Culbert was born deaf.  At the age of two, he had cochlear implant surgery. This surgery enabled Ryan’s eardrum to vibrate for him to hear sound.  At first, he learned the American Sign Language alphabet and a few words to get him through his early years- more, hungry, and sleep just to name a few.  Ryan had trouble learning to speak properly which was a struggle for him while he was a child. He even attended Saint Clair Area Elementary and Middle Schools so he could take speech classes. Eventually, Ryan transferred to Pine Grove Area.     

Ryan and his family knew that he would struggle to learn and build in sports but they pushed him to compete and try new things. Ryan knows now that it was struggling at times but with the help of his coaches and teammates, Ryan was able to compete and succeed in both basketball and baseball since 2nd grade. “Baseball never was a problem but it was always with basketball. Baseball was hard to hear where I was supposed to stand in the outfield but it was that bad. In basketball the hearing play calls and trying to split the outside noise of the crowd from my teammates and coaches was the struggle,” said Culbert.  Culbert went on to say, “My favorite memory has to be our first District game, last year, and I scored the final points. We won over Palmerton 49-47.”

“When we were little we baseball, we had to make a hole bunch of hand signals for him.  We do that with basketball too, because it was difficult for Cho-bert.” “Hand signals became second  nature for us. They (other teams) didn’t know what we were running right away. It was kind of like our own language,” said Dawson Ibarra.    Ryan had a real tough time at first but he learned to decipher everything and understand what he was hearing. Even with his hearing difficulties, Culbert will be attending Penn State Schuylkill this Fall to play both college baseball and basketball.