Nancy Williams - When hearing loss strikes a chord - a success story

The people we help: When hearing loss strikes a chord

Published 16-11-2016
Last Updated09-01-2020

Hearing professionals are working to change the lives of people with hearing loss every day. Here's one of our favorite success stories.
Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu once said that “the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

For Nancy M. Williams, her journey toward becoming a proud hearing aid user began just like that.

It was 2010 and Nancy was just about to play Chopin’s “Raindrop Prelude” at a piano recital. She sat down at the bench confident and prepared, but when she began playing the music sounded strange to her ears.

She quickly realized that her hearing aids weren’t set to their “music” setting. She had to start over – and to explain why. So she stood up and told the audience something she had barely admitted to anyone before: she had hearing loss.

“It was a really pivotal moment for me because up until that time I had been silent about my hearing loss,” she said. “That day opened a door for me.”


Nancy was born with sensorineural hearing loss due to a mutation on the Connexin 26 gene. The mutation can cause deafness, but Nancy was lucky to only have mild hearing loss as a child.

She was fit with her first hearing aid in 1977 in seventh grade – a behind the ear model with thick tubing connecting to the earmold that she tried to hide behind her hair.

“My childhood was about blending in and being as mainstream as possible,” she said. “It felt like I would be penalized if I admitted to people that I had a hearing loss, so I rarely told anyone – in some sense I didn’t even admit it to myself.” 


Nancy’s level of hearing loss has gradually increased, but luckily hearing aid technology has improved along with it. Thanks to her hearing aids, Nancy is able to not only hear what people are saying, but to also improve her musicianship in ways she didn’t anticipate.

“For me the act of listening is more conscious than it is for a musician who does not have hearing loss,” she says. “Striving to overcome the disability of not hearing is part of what aids my musicality.” 

Nancy doesn’t know how much more of her hearing she will lose in the coming years, but for now she is thankful that hearing aid technology allows her to hear what she loves most: music

“Every time I sit down to play the piano I give a prayer of thanks,” she says. “I want to remember it as much as I can.”

Nancy M. Williams is an award-winning creative nonfiction writer, a motivational speaker, and the Founding Editor of the online magazine Grand Piano Passion™, which celebrates musicians with hearing loss. She performs on the piano, and in 2012 she debuted in recital at Carnegie Hall. She serves on the Board of the Hearing Health Foundation.

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