Nineteen-year-old Nash Jolley was born with profound hearing loss but he doesn’t let it define him. As far as he is concerned, the sky is the limit and he isn’t going to let the fact that he can’t hear get in his way.
A recent Lovell High School graduate, Jolley was active in wrestling, football and student government during his high school career, including serving as student body president in his senior year.
His father, Gary Jolley, said his son’s inability to hear became noticeable at around 10 months old. He said he noticed that Nash didn’t respond to sounds, as one would expect.
“When you talked to him, especially if you were in the other room or his back was to you, he wouldn’t respond,” he said. “We could vacuum while he was asleep and it didn’t bother him one bit.”
Gary said his suspicions were confirmed when he took Nash to an audiologist, where he was fitted for hearing aids in both ears. He was about a year old at that time.
“His hearing aids alone didn’t help him enough,” said Gary. “He couldn’t hear well enough to tell the difference between sounds and words.”
Later, Nash was fitted with cochlear implants, which improved things greatly for him, though he will never have complete hearing. He was about 10 years old at the time.
Cochlear implants are medical devices implanted surgically into the skull that send impulses directly to the auditory nerve, which then transmits signals to the brain. The implants work in unison with external parts that look similar to a hearing aid but are actually more like a speaker. The internal and external parts work together to create a sensation of sound for people like Nash, who have complete hearing loss.
Nash said it took him a while to adjust to the sound. The devices required regular adjustments at first. Now he gets them adjusted every couple of years.
“I still depend a lot on lip reading,” said Nash.
He said lip reading came naturally for him. Speaking in a normal tone of voice took more work.
“I still have speech problems, like with pronouncing words sometimes, but overall I think I do pretty well,” he explained. “I used to go to a lot of therapy for this. I only stopped therapy a few years ago. I kind of graduated from that.”
Though he learned sign language at a young age, he said he never really liked depending on it.
“As far as the family setting goes, he’s pretty much refused to use sign language,” said Gary. “We were told that most deaf kids choose at an early age whether they want to be verbal or sign, and some, but not many, will do both.”
Nash is able to communicate verbally and through sign language, but he prefers to be verbal. Though it’s still a bit of a struggle to keep track of all of the sounds in the room, he makes the effort. He said it’s an effort he feels is worthwhile. It’s that extra effort that makes him who he is.
“I never really liked sign language, ever,” Nash explained. “I just wanted to blend. I just wanted to be mainstream. It’s more work, but it’s more me.”
In order to participate in sports, Nash has made adjustments, as well.
According to his football coach, Doug Hazen, Nash couldn’t play offense because of the system the Bulldogs use, which employs audibles and sending plays in, as well as the basics of hearing the snap count. But he found his perfect fit on defense, at defensive tackle.
“We hand signal everything in, so there’s no issue for him,” said Hazen. “The only thing we key on is the football on defense. He really focused in on that. He was explosive off the ball and sometimes beat an offensive lineman by blowing past him.”
Nash had to take his amplifiers off for football because they could be damaged and wouldn’t fit under the helmet.
“Without them, he has no residual hearing,” Doug said.
“One play I remember, during his junior year, he recovered a fumble and ran to the sideline. It was a big game and a key play. He was yelling, ‘I got the ball, I got the ball!’ He couldn’t hear how loud he was, so he was screaming at the top of his lungs because he was so excited about recovering the ball. It was sheer excitement.”
Hazen said he really enjoyed Nash as a player, especially his attitude.
“Nash was a great kid to coach,” he said. “He’s very coachable. He has a great attitude and he is a hard worker. You couldn’t ask for a better kid.
“From my view, he has accepted his gifts and his struggles in life. He has a good understanding about himself. He has good self-awareness.”
Nash started wrestling as a sophomore after moving to Lovell from Montana. His wrestling coach, Daniel Robertson, has good things to say about him, too.
Robertson said because Nash’s amplifiers don’t work well with his wrestling headgear, he leaves them off, which creates a situation where he can’t hear the coaches while he is wrestling.
“We didn’t have any special hand signals. We mostly played Charades. It was the best we could do. We figured out a few hand signals, but with Nash, most of the work you do has to be done in practice. You can’t plan on him relying on us during a match. He needs to understand Charades, and he needs line of sight to read lips.”
Robertson said that if Nash is in a match and turns his head to try to read lips, it could cost him the match because he would lose his head position.
“Head position wins and loses matches,” said Robertson, noting that turning the head causes a wrestler to lose power in his neck and could also put him in a bad technical position.
“Nash has a lot of natural talent that takes over. It’s repetition and the skills you develop,” he added.
In spite of those challenges, Nash placed third at 2A State as a junior at 220 pounds and second at 3A State as a senior, also at 220.
“Nash has really good balance and is naturally strong. That makes him a bear,” said Robertson. “He has really good hips and good body awareness and positioning.”
Robertson noted that Nash is driven to succeed. He said Nash’s hearing loss has made him appreciate what he can do more, saying he values the things he has.
“He doesn’t just want to be the deaf kid,” said Robertson.
Robertson added that Nash was an equal pleasure to have in his classroom.
“He likes people and he likes politics,” said Robertson. “He likes being part of a team. He’s a good leader. He’s the student body president and likes that.”
Nash left this week on an LDS mission in Gilbreth, Ariz. He said this is his focus for the moment and he’ll think about the future when he returns.
Nash said he’s enjoyed serving in leadership roles in his church, on the football team and in the student council. He is interested in politics but he looks at it as “more of a humble service.”
“I don’t see my hearing loss as an obstacle, I see it as more of a blessing,” he said. “I call my hearing
loss a gift. Everyone has a kind of gift. There’s a reason why I was deaf from the start.
“Being deaf is hard. I’ve gone through so much. I see myself as being here to inspire other people by what I do and by the fact that I don’t let my hearing loss hold me back. I never feel sorry for myself. I just accept myself for who I am.”
By Patti Carpenter