CRESTVIEW — Mercedez Linton’s natural affinity for languages took her all the way to Crestview High School’s honors French II class, but when her grades began to fall it really made her mother, Rebekah, wonder.
“She took French and in class she did well and then she took French II pre-ace. She had a 71 ‘C’ in French II,” said Rebekah.
“There were other classes where they said, ‘Mercedez isn’t paying attention,’” she added.
But unbeknown to her teachers and parents, Mercedez’s problems in school were not behavioral.
It wasn’t until her check-up earlier this year that her doctors noticed something was amiss.
“After failing her hearing test a few times the doctor said, “Mercedez, are you faking?’”
She wasn’t faking — Mercedez became hearing impaired progressively, most likely due to multiple fevers she had as a child.
“It’s abnormal for a 16-year-old to wake up and not have that level of hearing,” said Rebekah. “It turns out she didn’t wake up like that, it had been progressing and progressing and getting worse to the point that she couldn’t compensate for it anymore.”
Rebekah cried all the way home from the appointment when she learned that Mercedez needed hearing aids, but she said that her daughter is “taking it all in stride.”
“I knew it was coming and I was scared and then I just realized that you are who you are and there is nothing to stop it and so I just kind of let it be,” said Mercedez.
“It would be easier if I were born deaf because you don’t know what you are missing,” she said. “Deaf people don’t care about music because they can’t hear it, deaf people don’t care about hearing the rain because they can’t see it — they can taste it on their lips, they can feel it, they don’t care about the sound.”
But Mercedez still likes to cheer and sing; she’s in both the choir and the cheer squad at Crestview High.
“In choir I kind of learned how to feel the music through my feet and practice like that so I know what pitch to stay on and everyone in choir was like ‘as long as you can say the right notes I don’t care.’” She added, “I was actually barefoot the entire time to hear the vibrations through the risers.”
However, the experience hasn't been without its challenges.
“I have had girls tell me, ‘maybe you shouldn’t be on this team if you can’t hear what we have to say,' 'you are going to miss something important,' [or] 'you are going to miss something that is about to be said,’” she said.
According to Mercedez, the main problem with being deaf is that those who can hear try to dictate how the hard of hearing live their lives.
“I had a friend last year, he was treated more like an animal in a zoo rather than a person, and that’s how a lot of deaf people are treated,” she said.
“A lot of people say, ‘Oh, look at that deaf person over there!' Keep your eyes off of my conversation.”