Never Hear My Girls
“I’m never going to hear my girls whisper in my ear at their weddings when we have our father daughter dance … they are only teenagers now and I know the day isn’t coming any day soon, but it was my initial thought.”
In early July of 2010, the world became completely silent for Brian Patrick Jensen. A successful and healthy 48-year-old Lansdale executive, Jensen had done well in his career. He started a consulting business on the side and was a part-time professor at Cabrini College as well as the father of two daughters.
He was living a very comfortable lifestyle. “And then wham! This happens,” said Jensen.
Since Jensen was a kid, he had difficulty hearing in his right ear, having a case of tone deafness which allowed him to only hear certain frequency of sound. “I could still hear though, I just had to pay a little more attention and really focus,” he said. Six years ago Jensen was diagnosed with SSHL, sudden sensorineural hearing loss, in his left ear. He needed to wear a hearing aid which allowed him to hear sound, which was then muffled. On July 9, 2010, Jensen went to the doctor after sudden loss of hearing in both ears. It was that day that the doctor diagnosed him with SSHL in both ears, becoming profoundly deaf.
Same Person; Just Can’t Hear Anything
“To this day it really does suck and it is difficult, it’s something I don’t wish on anyone. I don’t play off that everything is a-OK every day because it’s not,” said Jensen.
The then vice president of Human Resources and Talent Acquisition at Movers Specialty Service, Inc. in Montgomeryville had to re-evaluate his life, coming up with ways in which he would communicate with individuals, a heavy part of his day-to-day life.
“I can’t hear birds chirping, I can’t hear music, I can’t even hear the buzz of the air conditioner. Early on I knew that I had responsibility to myself and my family. Whining, being sad and mourning is not my style, I don’t like that feeling. I wanted to be fun to be around again. I’m very upbeat and positive guy and it took time but I realized I’m the same person, I just can’t hear anything,” said Jensen.
Considering himself a practical guy with a businessman mentality, Jensen knew he had to figure out solutions to problems like how to conduct a meeting and how to hold training. He often thought about how was he going to live his normal life. “There is no handbook for individuals like myself, although thinking about it I may now write one,” joked Jensen. “But I couldn’t pop into Google these questions because no one really has a textbook answer.”
With his family, Jensen started communicating with his daughters through text messages and basic sign language, a skill he learned in classes and his daughters picked up in elementary school. At work, Jensen was accommodated by his employer, aiding him with voice-to-text telephone technology. Lip reading is something Jensen is still working on, but he often finds himself thinking a step ahead, of what question may be asked next.
“When I lost my hearing the consulting job tanked because “Interacting 101” with senior executives is not doable with a person who can’t hear, but I thought to myself, if I just readjust certain things I can still have a business of some sort,” said Jensen. With confidence and a large stage presence, Jensen moved to motivational speaking and training. He uses a stage-based presentations with slides and conversation, telling his story and how he has overcome his obstacles.
During the entire presentation he uses a screen for his slides, as well as a screen where text is displayed from the dialogue he and audience members speak using a technology called Communications Access Realtime Translation (CART).
“I was presenting a brief half hour speech at a conference for my employer with about 400 people in audience,” said Jensen. “I gave my talk and halfway through I told the audience I was deaf and I remember specifically the look on their faces, those who didn’t know me were surprised.”
“People have an image of a deaf person, including their communication skills, and they were sitting there watching this guy who has passion and motivation suddenly say I can’t hear,” he said. “I never thought (my hearing loss) could be an advantage. Keeping peoples’ attention spans and on task is always a challenge.” After strong feedback Jensen knew he had something positive to work with, being able to interact with a room of people and engaging them with an individual with a “so-called disability” Jensen said.
Jensen now works for himself full time, offering speeches and training, runs a website and also writes a blog, all found at http://brianpatrickjensen.com. “I love to talk and thank God I lost my hearing. not much speech, because if I couldn’t talk I don’t know what I would do,” he said.
Source of Strength
Piggybacking off his previous messages when doing consultation work, Jensen started his speeches off highlighting the themes of leadership and service. A third tier was shortly added, talking about perseverance. “Perseverance topic is the one I’ve got the most significant response from on both public speaking and my blog,” said Jensen. “Business audiences want to hear this stuff, the story of overcoming and what it takes to do that. People connect and relate with pain more than good stuff.”
On Jensen’s blog he is often discussing the hardships of being deaf, the little things like not being able to hear or lip sync the words of the National Anthem, not hearing the Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1 in D as his daughter Amanda walked at her graduation last month, and never being able to hear the voices of his children ever again. To Jensen, “my readers are my source of strength.”
“It is so healing to see the reactions by the comments,” said Jensen. “It is the most humbling, healing and greatest sense of accomplishment. Before I was always in the profit gain and my rewards were often material and I liked that, I was very ambitious that way. But the experience of having another person that said “you helped heal and inspire me” is the greatest feeling and largest source of pride I’ve ever felt.”
Achieving the Dream
For now, Jensen will continue to focus on his consulting and motivation speaking with hopes of growing within the local community and region, to help businesses build talents within their organization and overcome crisis. “I’ve been very successful in everything in my life but I’ve never had more passion than for this and it has lots of potential,” said Jensen.
Like all of us, Jensen has dreams and aspirations ever since he was a young boy. Everyone’s life has a planned journey and Jensen’s dream has a greater chance of coming true ever since his hearing loss. A September 2011 blog post specifically entails Jensen’s childhood dream:
“I am standing in a vast auditorium; overlooking a huge crowd; spotlight on me. The crowd is delighted by my discourse. My message is profound and important and everyone wants to hear it. It is right and good and genuine. I hear my own voice resonate across the venue with power and conviction. The people cheer wildly. They are moved by my preaching; they are inspired. Cameras are popping, lights are whirling and the ovation is thunderous. The scene overwhelms me with pride and gratitude. I feel a warmth and love and connection with the crowd. It’s magical!”
To this day he still strives for this dream. “I want nothing more than to be that guy giving a passionate message to others, rocking it the entire time,” said Jensen. “Hopefully this will happen a few years from now.. I’m always going to push towards it.”
This article appeared in The North Penn Reporter on Monday, July 2, 2012. The publisher’s online version can be accessed at The Reporter Online: Motivational Life by Amanda Piccirilli.