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A New Leash on Life: Overcoming Hearing Loss One Bark at a Time

Coleman, Matthew

doi: 10.1097/01.HJ.0000411245.07026.f2


Emily Roback may have been born with severe hearing loss in her left ear and profound loss in her right, but she has always taken the road less traveled and has never let her disability hold her down — she hasn't had the time.

Dr. Roback is a chiropractor, fitness guru, life coach, speaker, writer, and entrepreneur, and she continues to strive to achieve more goals. But when you are running your own chiropractic practice, like she does in Calgary, things can get a little “ruff” when you cannot hear the doorbell.

Enter Ivey, a five-month old Weimaraner, who has become an essential part of Dr. Roback's life. She is already thrilled with her new companion. “When the doorbell rings, Ivey comes and gets me to let me know someone is there, and then she takes me to the door,” Dr. Roback said. “In practice, she greets the patient, and she sits down and watches as I treat them. When the patient leaves, she gets up. She is waiting for them to leave.”

Dr. Roback said her clients always have the opportunity to get treatment without the dog in the room if they have allergies or fears.

Ivey also is helpful around the house, notifying Dr. Roback of sounds that she may not hear. “There are certain sounds in the house that I don't hear. For example, the furnace, a tea kettle on the stove, and the microwave. She has super hearing. She alerts me of the sounds, and I can just say, ‘Ivey,’ and she will come.”

Dr. Roback vacillated about getting a dog for two years, but finally made the decision to get one she could train. “I'm sold now,” Dr. Roback said. “I got her at eight weeks. I thought about it for two years. The first week I had her it paid off.”

While Dr. Roback has suffered from hearing loss since she was a small child growing up on her family's strawberry farm, she has not allowed what some view as a debilitating disability get in her way. She simply has had too much she needed to accomplish to let her hearing loss impede her.

“I survive on challenges,” Dr. Roback said. “Challenges help me grow as a person and as an individual. Overcoming them allows me to accomplish much more. You can achieve all you want to achieve. Set goals. Set dreams. Make them real.”

Dr. Roback has used her knowledge of kinesthesiology to develop fitness plans, for example. “I had to overcome the issue of balance,” Dr. Roback said. “I was like all right, let's see if I can be flexible. Let's see if I can show endurance and power. I started doing rollerblade stunts and introducing that into my fitness routine. I was taking what I was learning, and I was challenging myself. I surprised a lot of people and myself.”

People with hearing challenges — or any challenges — should not go through life feeling self-pity, she said. “You don't have to say life is hard, and it is always going to be this way,” Dr. Roback said. “You can turn around and turn things to your favor, too. You have to be an entrepreneur. You have to reinvent yourself. And then suddenly you stand out even more.”

Dr. Roback and her mother recently wrote a book entitled “A Silent Cheer,” which profiles her life growing up with hearing loss and working through any obstacles to become what she is today. When presented with an opportunity to talk with younger individuals who suffer from similar hearing loss, Dr. Roback is sure to provide them with a quotation she coined, and it's one that audiologists and hearing aid specialists can pass along to their clients. “The future is predictable as long as you create it. I have been told many times that things were impossible. Don't let people decide for you. We all have a brain. We are all capable of learning, thinking, and doing, and applying what we know and making something out of it.”

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