Becca Balint: Overcoming the Odds
When Becca Balint was 3-years-old she lost her hearing after being diagnosed with Sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL). That condition occurs when there is damage to the inner ear. Most of the time, SNHL cannot be medically or surgically corrected and results in permanent hearing loss.
At age 5 she was fitted with hearing aids, but Balint said wearing them was like “being in a football stadium with fans yelling at you all at once.” She couldn’t concentrate in class, and the stigma of being hearing impaired subjected her to bullying and harsh treatment.
“Throughout school I was picked on every day. I was insulted, kicked, pushed down the stairs, had my lunch money stolen and was ridiculed. I went home every day and cried.”
As a student at RBC last year, Balint struggled and was failing her classes. “My experience here was really, really hard because I couldn’t hear the lectures. I tried to follow what was being said, but I got flustered, frustrated and anxious. I wrote what I thought I heard, but most of the time it was wrong.”
Balint’s life changed recently when she started wearing a singular cochlear implant, an electronic device that helps her hear. She was recently fitted for a second implant that allows her to hear in both ears. Even with the two devices she still needs to tape every lecture and rewinds “a lot.” The cochlear implants carry a steep price: Each costs $10,000, which is not covered by health insurance.
The implants have dramatically reduced Balint’s nervousness and propensity to be withdrawn. In essence, they’ve made her a new person.
Becca is an accomplished musician who plays guitar, bass, saxophone and clarinet. She is the drummer in her church band. To pay for her RBC education, Balint holds down a 40-hour, full-time job at Pet Smart.
“I understand now that I can do anything anyone else can do,” said Balint, who has career aspirations to be a professional musician or work with animals. The biology major has an aggressive goal of graduating in Spring 2018. “I take one class now, but my big goal is to take two or three classes going forward. With the implants I think I can do it.”
She’ll have family support next year when her sister Madison, who is also deaf and wears cochlear implants, begins her journey at Richard Bland College.