Soccer players must work together to defend their territory, move the ball forward, and predict the opposing team’s moves—all while working against the clock. In order to succeed, they need to communicate.

When all the team members are deaf or hard of hearing, communication takes on a whole new meaning.

Meet Patrick S., a Cochlear™ Baha® 5 recipient and defender on the USA Deaf Men’s National Soccer Team. His passion for the game has helped him find a community of likeminded players who inspire him to learn and grow—both on and off the field.

From old-school to the latest tech

Patrick was born with microtia and Goldenhar Syndrome which resulted in significant hearing loss. In early childhood he was fitted with a hearing aid, but said he was initially too self-conscious to wear it around school.

“Being a kid at the time, I thought I didn’t need it, and I thought I’d be embarrassed to wear it,” Patrick recalled. “I didn’t realize until my senior year in high school that all that shouldn’t matter and I shouldn’t care. I realized I needed to wear a hearing aid and be proud of what I wear.”

That realization prompted him to begin wearing a hearing aid. He said it did improve his hearing, but it also brought its own challenges.

“The hearing aid was very old-school. It distorted voices, and I would hear a loud echo,” Patrick said. “(Talking to people) was like hearing a loud stereo at a concert. You couldn’t hear the full words correctly until you asked (them to repeat it).”

Earlier this year, Patrick visited his doctor and found out he qualified for a Baha 5 Sound Processor. He said from there, the decision was easy.

“After reading the reviews and watching videos of people who have Baha Sound Processors, I was on board and ready to receive one right then and there,” he said.

Patrick was implanted in March 2018 and received the Baha 5 Attract System in April. He said the difference in sound was immediate and powerful.

“It was raining in Dallas that day,” he remembered. “When my audiologist turned my processor on, it was the first time I’d ever heard the sound of dripping water. It was quite an experience for me.”

On the field

Patrick said he can’t remember a time before he played soccer.

“I’ve been playing since I could walk, literally,” he said. “I was born in Germany then moved to America, so I’ve learned both the German and the American ways.”

He said he loves the game because it’s all about teamwork and collaboration.

“I’m a very visual person, which is my biggest advantage,” he said. “Once I get to know my teammates and their instincts, I already know what they’re going to do (on the field).”

Six years ago, Patrick met a member of the USA Deaf Men’s National Soccer Team, who invited him to apply for the team.

“I emailed the president of the US Deaf Soccer Federation and they gave me an opportunity to try out,” Patrick said. “I’ve been with the team for six years now, and I haven’t regretted any decision since.”

The team currently has 22 players and gets together twice a year—during the summer and winter—to practice and compete. Players cannot wear hearing devices while competing (including Baha processors), so they rely on hand gestures, physical cues, and careful planning to communicate during games.

“We rely on mostly visual interpretation,” Patrick said. “My teammates use hand gestures, (and) my coach uses a board to show me what routes and positions I should take.”

His advice for other players

Patrick’s said that when it comes to playing sports, the Baha Sound Processor Safety Line is a “lifesaver.”

“It will help you tremendously in any sport,” he said. “In basketball, soccer, and other sports that don’t require a helmet, (wearing a Baha Sound Processor) is no problem. And it definitely helps, communication-wise.”

He said he has learned to be proud of what makes him stand out from the crowd.

“You should never be afraid to wear your sound processor,” Patrick said. “Wear it to be unique on the field and stand out from the crowd. Be confident and don’t be afraid. It helps you learn things about yourself you never knew, and it will change your life for the better.”

For more information on playing sports with a sound processor, check out 5 tips for parents to help young athletes succeed.

Skylar Mason
As a journalism student, Baha recipient, and Anders Tjellström Scholarship winner, Skylar is excited to join the team at Cochlear as an intern to tell the stories of other CI and Baha recipients! She attends the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University.