If you ran into Junction City resident Diana Dick at the grocery store, you would very quickly discover her high-energy approach to life and her outgoing personality.
It would take you a little longer to discover the rest of what makes up who she is.
The fact that she is a wife and mother isn’t that much different from a lot of people, and she’s not the only 29-year-old woman who works as a registered nurse. She possesses a love of running and does so very successfully, but so do many other people.
What makes Diana unique is she does all those things while being deaf – a fact you would never know from talking with her.
“Most deaf people have poor speech because they’ve never heard,” she said. “I was born hearing and started to lose my hearing when I was a junior in high school. This is genetic – my dad is deaf. I have a 65-decibel loss, and it drops off. They term my deafness as moderate to profound sloping.”
Diagnosed with Bilateral Sensorineural Hearing Loss, Diana hasn’t let her hearing loss hold her back.
“It’s not a disability. It’s a communication difference,” she said. “When I was younger, I worried that people might see my hearing aids. Now I don’t care. I accept it, and I don’t consider it a disability. It’s not holding me back. It’s helped me find who I am, and I feel I am able to see so much more.”
Somewhere along the way Diana discovered running. She runs six times a week and competes in 5K’s, 10K’s and half marathons. And she’s not just a runner … she’s a very good runner. She currently holds the national record in the half marathon for deaf women, and she was selected to represent the United States in the Deaflympics in Bulgaria earlier this year.
“To be in the Deaflympics, you have to be qualified as hard of hearing or deaf, so you have to have a hearing loss of at least 65 decibels,” she said. Then you have to apply and are either accepted or rejected. I was really honored when they selected me.”
The members of Team USA met in Texas for some training before heading to Bulgaria. Diana had high hopes for the event.
“I was supposed to run the 5K and the 10K, but I only ended up running the 10K, and I ran horrible,” Diana said. “I was so mad, but it’s like life … sometimes you have good races, and sometimes you have bad races. And you train so hard for it, and then bam, you run terrible.”
The trip didn’t go as planned. But Diana came away from the trip with something even more important than a medal.
“It was interesting to see the different forms of hearing loss and the various modes of communication,” she said. “It was like a whole new world. We all connected because we shared a love of sports and we have the same hearing loss.”
Maneuvering through her day does present some challenges. Hearing her children while they are in the backseat of the car, dinner table conversation and going to a movie all require a little extra work. She uses technology to her advantage, utilizing an extra-loud alarm clock that shakes her pillow to wake her up and a streaming device on her phone to make it easier to hear. But all of those things couldn’t prepare her for a challenge she encountered after a recent race.
“I can’t run with my hearing aids on, so people would come up and congratulate me or want to talk, and I wouldn’t hear them and they thought I was stuck up and thought I was better than everyone else,” she said. “But the truth is I just couldn’t hear them.”
Diana knows the challenges will continue as her hearing progressively deteriorates. Next up for her is the decision whether to have a surgical procedure to improve her hearing.
“My doctor wants me to have a cochlear implant,” she said. “That’s a surgical procedure to do an implant in your head. But there’s a lot of risk to that, and it destroys any hearing you do have. If I took the implant off, I wouldn’t hear at all. And you have to go to speech therapy and retrain your brain.”
Some people would say Diana has been dealt some bad cards in life. But she knows her hearing loss is part of who she is, not something that defines her.
“When I was 16 and this started, I struggled with it. I saw how it affected my dad, so there was a period of depression,” she said. “But with running and the Deaflympics, I found myself and realize that this is fine.”