DJ Robbie Wilde lost full hearing in his right ear and 80% in his left
Wilde tried to keep hearing loss a secret in school, but other students knew and mocked him
Wilde says he's found his passion spinning music; he loves to do what makes him happy
Editor’s Note: In the Human Factor, we profile survivors who have overcome the odds. Confronting a life obstacle – injury, illness or other hardship – they tapped their inner strength and found resilience they didn’t know they possessed. This week we introduce you to DJ Robbie Wilde, who literally has to feel the music he spins; he’s been deaf since he was 7.
My early childhood was a bit of a trip. I was born in the United Kingdom, then moved to Portugal, Venezuela and eventually New Jersey.
When I was about 7, I had a series of severe ear infections. At the time, my family had no money, and we didn’t have insurance, so there was no option to take care of it. I ended up losing full hearing in my right ear and 80% hearing in my left.
When I began attending public school, I didn’t understand how the severity of my hearing loss would affect me; neither did my parents or my teachers. There were many issues when it came to grades due to miscommunication between the teachers and me. They often thought I was ignoring them.
Eventually, when I was 11, my parents started to pick up on it, which led to a doctor visit. My mother and I were told that I had significant hearing loss and that the hearing I had left was not guaranteed to stay.
My mother had a hard time dealing with the news at first. It was one more obstacle that we were going to have to deal with as a family, and she knew it was bound to cause a hard time for me at school.
When it came time to decide whether to go to a school for the deaf or continue in public school, I made the choice to stay where I was. My mother was a bit uncomfortable with the situation, but my fear of being labeled as different played a big part in my decision.
I also decided I was just going to keep my hearing loss to myself.
Eventually my friends figured it out. It didn’t really change anything between us, but from time to time, some other kids would make fun of me.
One day in middle school a kid started making fun of me and mocked his own stereotypical idea of what a deaf person would speak like. One of my good friends, Chad Foster, stopped me from thinking or doing anything negative and told me it wasn’t worth it. He said there will always be ignorant people like that in life, and I just have to brush it off – to be me and that’s all that mattered. He also told me he had my back.
But I still had trouble looking at school the same way. That incident brought reality into my life at an early age, so I kept to myself with my close friends.
My career as a DJ began in college. My parents owned a restaurant, and my father gave me the opportunity to DJ a party one night. I immediately fell in love with the turntables and began to DJ more and more. From there I started DJ’ing at clubs in the tri-state area, from New Jersey to New York to Connecticut, and eventually also in Atlanta and Chicago.
I started to get a following in those states, even as I continued to attend Kean University to get my bachelor’s degree in biology. Then I had to drop out of college my junior year due to financial trouble in a bad economy.
However, I stuck with my passion of spinning music, and after nearly a decade, I was granted a great opportunity. Hewlett-Packard took notice of what I was doing and what my movement stood for. We shot and aired a global commercial, which began a positive snowball effect for my career.
Doctors tell me there is a procedure that could restore my hearing. One day, when I have the time and money to get my hearing fixed, I probably will have the procedure done. But right now, I need to be on the forefront with my team, fighting for the issues in society that are too often overlooked. I intend to do so through my career in music and philanthropy.
Plus, there are just some things in life better off not being heard.
When it comes down to it, life’s not about all the small negative things you encounter. It’s about being yourself and doing what you love to be happy. If you love something so much and have great passion for it, then just go for it. My team and I like to use the expression “Why not … ?”
Just ask yourself, why not?