At 18, Mandy Harvey lost her hearing and her dream to be a choir director
Now, she sings without being able to hear her own voice
Mandy Harvey takes people on a journey when she sings.
“The thing I love about music … you can close your eyes and be transported back to a memory or a dream or a feeling,” the 30-year-old said.
Harvey has near-perfect pitch, so it’s hard to believe she is deaf.
“I was always a shy child and slightly hard of hearing, so music was my outlet. I started singing in a choir when I was 4 years old,” she said.
Harvey, who grew up in south Florida, was born with deformed eustachian tubes. This led to infections, perforated eardrums and surgeries. She was also born with a connective tissue disorder called Ehlers-Danlos syndrome type 3.
“EDS affects my hearing,” she said. “It affects my nerves, my joints, my connective tissue, organs, skin. It affects my whole body, and I dislocate a lot.”
But Harvey had a dream. She was determined to become a choir director. At 18, she enrolled in the vocal music education program at Colorado State University.
“Within the first month, I couldn’t understand my teachers,” she recalled.
Over nine months, Harvey lost her residual hearing. She was dropped from the music program.
“I had made a serious mistake of connecting my entire identity with one single dream. And it died. … I watched myself die.”
Harvey moved back home and fell into a deep depression. She stopped leaving her house and quit living.
“Eventually, I got tired of sitting in the dark by myself and made the decision that this was not going to be the end of my story,” she said.
When she was 20, her dad asked if she would learn a new song to sing.
“My goal was to fail. I just wanted to do my best and prove that it couldn’t be done so that we could close this chapter,” she said.
Harvey sang the notes into a visual tuner and waited for the light to turn green.
“I just closed my eyes, and I let go. … I opened my eyes, and my dad was crying.”
Finding her voice
It was the beginning of a new chapter for Harvey.
“I am not the performing type. I was the one who would cry, throw up or pass out,” she said. “I realized that growing up, my biggest fear was always losing my hearing. And that happened. So what’s the worst that could happen here?”
Harvey enrolled in vocal lessons with the goal of becoming a jazz singer. Her first gig was in a jazz club performing in front of seven people, who weren’t paying attention, she remembered.