Can you imagine what your life would be like if you were deaf? What would it be like to try and have a conversation with someone and not be able to hear what they are saying, or to watch a television program or movie and not be able to hear anything that is going on? How about attending a concert in Madison Square Garden in New York, with thousands of screaming fans all around you, and you can not hear the screaming, or even your father and uncles performing some of the hits that made them mega-stars of the 1970s?
Life without sound could become a very lonely world. That is the world that Justin Osmond, son of Merrill Osmond, the lead singer and bassist of the original Osmond Brothers, grew up in and continues to contend with. Justin was born on 1 March 1977 and was diagnosed with 90% hearing loss when he was two-years-old. Being at the concert in Madison Square Garden on 23 November 1973, in the middle of 20,000 people – an event which the New York Times described as “a rare occasion when audience noise beats down group amplification” – he never felt more alone. Speaking about that experience, he said:
One of the biggest mountains in my life was being born into the musical Osmond family and not being able to hear and understand their music. I remember one time watching my family perform to a sold-out crowd at the New York Madison Square Garden with screaming fans and flashing lights and songs blasting over the sound system. I could feel the vibration of the drums, but I could not understand the words of the lead singer of the Osmonds—my own dad.
He continued, “It was one of the strangest things because, in the middle of the crowd, I felt alone. I felt isolated, disconnected, frustrated. It’s one of the worst feelings in the world.”
Justin and his dad have created a new inspirational podcast series called Sound Advice. On the latest episode of the series, Justin talks about what it was like being a part of Utah’s most famous musical family – the Osmonds – while being born 90% deaf. He also shares the challenges of being deaf in a legendary musical family and how he learned to embrace his limitations and turn them into his greatest strengths, in a new awe-inspiring TED Talk.
Among other challenges, Justin also shares how he was bullied in junior high and high school because of his hearing loss and how he got through it. He also explains that he received 12 years of intense speech and listening therapy. And, in spite of being told that he could never learn to play an instrument, he has learned to play the violin, viola, piano, and drums. Towards the end of his TED Talk, he gives a stunning performance on the violin.
Justin wants people to know, “We do not overcome hopelessness by removing the obstacle in our lives. We conquer adversity by not letting it own us, control us, or overcome us. . . . I may a have a hearing loss, but my hearing loss does not have me. . . . [Being deaf] made me who I am today. . . .We can control the quality of our lives just by how we think and act toward those challenges. My [hearing] loss has become my greatest advantage. I’ve learned to embrace my hearing disability and then allow it to empower me instead of holding me back.”
Justin Osmond is the founder of the Olive Osmond Hearing Fund which raises awareness of deaf issues and promotes hearing-health educational services.