A career as a musician seems an uncommon choice for a person who has had a hearing loss since childhood, but Madeleine Slate has become just that. Slate and her family are unsure when in her early childhood she developed a 60% hearing loss and speculate she could have been hard of hearing since birth. Because she excelled at lip reading beginning in her very early childhood, it wasn’t until she was 7 that her hearing issues were detected. After numerous surgeries, her hearing eventually improved to a 50% loss in one ear and nearly 15% in the other ear.
Prior to discovering her loss, Slate’s teachers accused her of not paying attention or daydreaming and school was difficult. Following her diagnosis though, her lip reading abilities and her improved hearing allowed her to remain fully oral through her years of mainstream education and to “communicate very well.” She attributes her speech therapy during school as a reason for the success she has achieved thus far with her ‘in the spotlight’ job” as a musician. The most difficult aspect of her school years stemmed from bullying due to her looking younger than the other students and also due to her hearing loss. Slate admits she sought to “be more like everybody else” by denying she had a hearing loss. “I always honestly thought I was the only hard-of-hearing person out there and felt a bit alone in it. I had no idea about all the positives that could come from it.”
Not until she reached high school, did Slate develop an interest in learning ASL, but she would abandon it again until June of 2013 when a friend asked, “What do you do when you’re not doing music?” Slate recognized that she needed something more in her life. This realization led to her enrolling in sign language classes. Through her ASL teacher, Mike Helms, and other new friends in the Deaf / hard-of-hearing community, Slate found that she too could embrace being hard of hearing. For the first time ever, she felt like she “fit in” and she discovered that “embracing my hearing loss and other traits that make me unique at the same time has helped the music industry understand me a bit more too.” Now, Madeleine Slate describes herself as “hard of hearing with a Deaf heart.”
Growing up in a family where she was exposed daily to music, Slate’s own musical passion is not surprising. Although she was born in Toronto, she now resides in Nashville, Tennessee where she secured a deal with Music Row to write music. To date, Slate’s accomplishments include writing the song “That’s How I’ll Remember You” sung by David Nail, as well as singing her own songs for various television shows and even a movie. They include, “What Happens” on The Client List, “Never Know the Word Lonely” on Hart of Dixie, and “Somethin’ ‘bout Christmas” on A Madea Christmas.
Slate has learned to navigate her social and business situations by arranging her get-togethers with deaf and hard-of-hearing friends and colleagues who sign in the noisy locations and those with hearing or deaf / hard-of hearing friends and business associates who do not sign in quieter settings. When the background noise is unavoidable among hearing friends or associates, she occasionally finds herself nodding her head as if she understood, but she more often finds herself asking for clarification if she does not fully comprehend what was said. Slate enjoys her time with both the signing and the hearing crowds and her ability to maintain a balance between the two works well for her.
As she completed her record in October of 2013, Slate realized how her Deaf and hard-of-hearing friends would be alienated at her release party. This led her to bridge the gap between the hearing and Deaf / hard-of-hearing communities by creating “SEE the MUSIC” where CART services and ASL interpreting is provided. The only downfall Slate has encountered about the new program is the cost. In order to raise funds to offer this service more often, fundraising is taking place at GoFundMe. Slate says, “My dream is to show my deaf and hard of hearing friends what I love about music, and to show my music friends what I love about ASL and the Deaf culture.” Slate’s ultimate dream is to bring this unique show that unites the two communities she loves all over the world.