Up until she was five years old, Paola Beals – at the time living in Bolivia – had no problems with her hearing, but all that changed when she got the measles and a nurse damaged her hearing by cleaning out her ears with too much water pressure.

With no government services to teach deaf children in Bolivia, or to teach parents sign language, children with a severe or permanent hearing loss couldn’t even learn in school. Fortunately, Paola was at least able to get an education in music appreciation thanks to one person…

Paola’s grandma would deliberately play a radio loud enough for Paola to be able to hear its loud sounds, and she taught her what each instrument’s sound waves sounded like. Being able to detect sounds while listening is what grew Paola’s love for music and helped her stay positive.

Now a US citizen, Paola feels a lot more supported in her quest to hear and communicate better. And having a severe hearing loss has never stopped her from going after what she wants. Now living in Niceville and raising her children with her hearing husband, Doug Beals, Paola is pursuing her dream of playing the cello.

Making the Decision to Learn

Paola’s desire to play the cello began when she watched it being played in a YouTube video of The Piano Guys, but she waited a few years before finding the confidence to sign up for cello lessons.

Liz Aylor had been teaching music for 44 years, but even she wondered how Paola would be able to learn when Doug and Paola approached her about lessons. However, between the three of them, they came up with the idea of having Doug sit behind Liz and sign whatever she said, in addition to having the assistance of Paola’s cochlear implant and hearing aids.

Paola has now been learning the cello from Liz for two years at Playground Music, and her passion and dedication is impressive – every morning, she spends four hours practicing, and she has a 30-minute lesson every week.

cello and hearing aid device

How Deafness Didn’t Stop Paola

Paola is able to “feel” the music more than hear it. Based on the sound vibrations from an amplifier, she can tell if the notes are high or low. She also runs the notes through the cello’s wires to her hearing aids via a Bluetooth connector called EasyTek that she controls on her iPhone. By using both strategies, she can enjoy the music she plays, finding it smooth, relaxing, and peaceful.

Challenges Faced

In her teens, Paola’s hearing aids helped her to hear and understand some of the music and words in the songs she learned in her school’s choir and theater programs, which eventually led her to the cello.

Learning the cello is not easy, but Liz Aylor is amazed at the progress Paola is making. Currently, Liz is using flash cards of written music to teach Paola how to read music, and she’s learning sign language too because Paola isn’t highly skilled at lip-reading.

Both teacher and student admire each other greatly for their patience and determination.

Finding Love – From Bolivia to Florida

Doug and Paola first met in Bolivia when Doug lived there with his parents. Missionaries, they specifically taught deaf children, and one of them was Paola. Many years later, the two grown children reconnected on Facebook. They got married eight years ago.

Doug hadn’t used any sign language in decades, and he has had to freshen up his skills since meeting Paola. While he enjoys interpreting Liz during his wife’s cello classes, he has no skills on the instrument himself. He says he is very proud of all she has accomplished.

What Music Means to Paola

The seed of Paola’s cello playing has now come full circle: Liz and Paola drove to Atlanta to see 2Cellos perform and meet them after.

As for her cello playing, Paola will continue with her four hours of practice each morning.

She knows she will eventually be good at it and she wants to succeed to where all the naysayers will eat their words.

As she puts it, “I can show people who I am, even though I’m deaf. I can do it. I can.”

Paola and student playing the cello

Find a Hearing Clinic Near Me

If you’ve thought that having a hearing loss meant you couldn’t enjoy music, Paola is living proof that it’s not true.

The first step to living your best hearing life is by booking a comprehensive hearing assessment at the Hearing Clinic MCC, or calling us at (850) 474-8328 to learn more about the many types of hearing treatment available.

We look forward to walking with you throughout your hearing journey.

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Margaret Richards Au.D., CCC-A

Originally from Mobile, AL, Dr. Margaret Richards graduated with a bachelor’s of science in communication disorders from Auburn University in 2010 and obtained her doctorate of audiology from the University of South Alabama in 2014; in addition, she holds a certificate of clinical competence in audiology.

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