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Columbia College athlete doesn't let hearing slow her down on basketball court

Tuesday, November 24, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CST
Columbia College's Kirsti Wilkerson began losing her hearing at the age of 5 and now has 58 percent hearing loss and wears hearing aids.

COLUMBIA — Sometimes for Kirsti Wilkerson, it is OK that she can't hear everything that is going on around her.  

"I always wonder what it would be like to hear 100 percent, but then I feel like I'm lucky because there are things I don't want to hear," Wilkerson said.  

Tuesday's game

Freed-Hardeman (Tenn.) University (7-0)
at Columbia College (4-1)

WHEN: 5:30 p.m.

WHERE: the Arena at Southwell Complex

 


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Wilkerson, a sophomore on the Columbia College women's basketball team, has 58 percent hearing loss.  

It is hard to pinpoint a concrete definition of hearing loss, but the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders Web site provides some causes.  "Hearing loss is a common problem caused by noise, aging, disease and heredity," according to the site.

Wilkerson said it is difficult to give a cause of her deafness, but by the age of 5, she gradually started to lose her hearing.  

"The only way we would know is if we had a genetics test done," Wilkerson said.

It is also hard to tell that Wilkerson wears in-the-canal hearing aids. 

"No one notices unless I talk about it," Wilkerson said. 

Growing up with an older brother and a best friend with similar, but less severe hearing loss, helped Wilkerson adjust. 

"He (her older brother) told me what to expect and how to react in certain situations," Wilkerson said. 

Wilkerson has learned to adapt, especially on the basketball court, where in bigger gyms and with more people, she has more difficulty.

"I kind of struggle hearing things," Wilkerson said. 

Her teammates help her out by looking at her and repeating a play. 

"If I still don't hear, they basically just shove me in the right direction," Wilkerson said.

Wilkerson’s roommates have adapted to Wilkerson’s hearing loss as well.  They talk twice as loud, and they usually repeat themselves Wilkerson said. 

Hearing aids definitely help, but Wilkerson said they don't fully correct her hearing.  Low-pitched noises, such as those coming from television, can be hard for her.  She doesn’t even bother with television without her hearing aids.

Without her hearing aids, Wilkerson can only hear if something is right next to her.  Wilkerson compares hearing without her aids to wearing earplugs. 

Wilkerson has learned to adjust on the court and at home, but her hearing also impacts one of her favorite hobbies. She likes to hunt with her family every year during "gun season."

"I can't hear what is coming up behind me," Wilkerson said. 

This is an especially big deal for Wilkerson because her family gets a little competitive.  Her younger sister has the family best with a 10-point buck to her credit.  Wilkerson's best shot was an 8-point buck. 

"So far, my sister's on top," Wilkerson said. 

As a collegiate basketball player and an avid hunter, Wilkerson doesn't let hearing loss stop her from achieving her goals. 

"You can do anything you set your mind to," Wilkerson said. 


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