Molly Corum is our Seen & Heard profile for the July/August 2014 issue of Hearing Loss Magazine, published bimonthly by the Hearing Loss Association of America. I photographed Molly at HLAA Convention 2011 in Washington, D.C.
Like artist Timothy Chambers, who is our cover feature in this same issue, Molly has Usher syndrome, an inherited condition characterized by hearing impairment and progressive vision loss. The vision loss is due to retinitis pigmentosa (RP), a degenerative condition of the retina, and usually appears during adolescence or early adulthood.
MOLLY CORUM Tampa, Florida / Born August 4, 1948, in Tampa
MY HEARING LOSS… I had a high fever when I was a few days old. I was profoundly deaf. I started speech therapy at age three at a local oral-deaf residential school. I was mainstreamed in kindergarten and received my first hearing aid in first grade. School wasn’t easy—my teachers had no training to help a ‘handicapped’ child.
I noticed my vision changing in my mid-30s. I was diagnosed with Usher syndrome in 1988 at age 40. I started using my white cane in 2006. I named it after my late boyfriend and it feels like we are still holding hands. Today I have a small tunnel of vision in my left eye, but the vision in the right eye is gone.
My life improved when I read an Ann Landers column in 1988 that referenced the SHHH Journal. I sent in for a copy, read it, and five seconds later I wrote a check for dues! In 1992 I learned about Foundation Fighting Blindness and attended their convention in Orlando. It was a positive experience.
I experienced a drop in my hearing in 1993 and learned I was a candidate for a cochlear implant. I attended my first HLAA Convention in 1994. For someone with hearing loss, it was the perfect place to be—captions everywhere! The vendors, volunteers and staff were all very understanding. I received my first cochlear implant in 1995 and went bilateral in 2006. Now I’m surrounded by a beautiful symphony of sounds!
I am encouraged because a lot has happened in the medical field since I was diagnosed with Usher syndrome. More genes have been identified and there are more trials and positive research. I am an avid advocate and participate in the Walk4Hearing and VisionWalk.
SAGE ADVICE… I was born in 1948. We never discussed disabilities in those days. With 48 million people having some degree of hearing loss, you are not alone. Research is easier with computers. Meet others with hearing loss, learn how they cope, and find out what services and products are available. Help us to advocate. Your hearing loss might be stable. Some hearing folks have had sudden deafness and became candidates for cochlear implants.
WHEN I WAS LITTLE, I WANTED TO BE… a speech teacher. In 1970 I volunteered with my speech teacher, Mrs. Denney Bolesta of Tampa. Two of the students are now my Facebook friends.
THE FIRST THING I BOUGHT WITH MY OWN MONEY WAS… a movie ticket. I then understood my dad’s quote, “Do you know how long it took me to make this much?”
PETS? I had a few pets growing up. From 1962–67, I showed American Saddlebred Horses in Florida, Tennessee and Kentucky. I loved the competition, made lots of friends and loved the parties. I also won a few blue ribbons.
I LOVE THE SOUND OF… classical music, happy conversation, squawking seagulls, the wind and the waves at the beach, babbling brooks (just as long as it is not dripping water in my condo!). After my cochlear implant, I was microwaving a small pizza. I opened the door and heard
the amazing sound of cheese bubbling.
MUSICALLY INCLINED? I once asked my mom if I could hear better, could I carry a tune? She said my dad could hear and he could not carry a tune. That made me feel so much better.
IN MY SPARE TIME, I… will talk your ear off about my fabulous cochlear implants, Hearing Loss Association of America, Foundation Fighting Blindness (FFB), Walk4Hearing, and VisionWalk. FFB has their newsletter and they share on Facebook the updated medical trials and research. I believe that in my lifetime we will have a cure for blindness.
BEST THING SINCE SLICED BREAD… Cochlear implants. I have two and they are my diamonds!
MY FRIENDS WOULD SAY I AM… Sassy. I say thank you.
THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE HOME… I am a fifth generation Floridian.
WORKING NINE TO FIVE… I worked at the Tampa Public Library for two years, the Tribune Times library for two years and for Hillsborough County Property Appraiser for 11 years.
EVER MEET ANYONE FAMOUS? Marilyn Van Derbur, Miss America 1958. I still have a picture of us together. I was a scrawny kid. I met her again in 1991 and asked for a re-take! I met Heather Whitestone, Miss America 1995, at the HLAA Convention in Atlanta in 2003. In Savannah, Georgia, in 1973 I was in a hotel elevator with my mom and saw Van Cliburn, the concert pianist. I’ve also met April Lufriu of Tampa. She became Mrs. Florida, Mrs. America, then Mrs. World.
LITTLE KNOWN FACTS ABOUT ME… I enjoyed my ballet lessons and I was good! I know the basics of water skiing and snow skiing and love the speed. The surgeon who did my first cochlear implant surgery taught me how to water ski in ninth grade. And finally, I am good at whacking my white cane—I am like the Red Sea—people jump out of my way!
I WOULD LOVE TO MEET… Dr. Samuel Nunez. Through genealogy research I have learned about my new Jewish heritage. I am a descendant of Dr. Samuel Nunez of Portugal (1668–1744), the first Jewish person to step foot in Savannah on July 11, 1733. The original colonist’s only doctor had died and Dr. Nunez was a great help. His great-great-grandson was Uriah Phillips Levy (1792-1862), the first Jewish Commodore of the U.S. Navy. Uriah was a great admirer of President Thomas Jefferson. He purchased and restored Jefferson’s home, Monticello.
HARDEST THING I’VE EVER DONE… In 2000, I had to take my dad’s car away from him because he was in the early stages of dementia. I could not have done this without my wonderful brother. I stopped driving in 1996.
IF I RULED THE WORLD… children would be required to read more books and to memorize English grammar rules. I think texting is ruining kids’ writing skills.
Hearing Loss Magazine is a very professional magazine that highlights personal stories of people with hearing loss.