Amazing Women of the Suncoast: Joan Haber

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Posted: Monday, August 11, 2014 3:34 pm

SARASOTA, Fla. -- Ever stop to think how much the sound of music means to you? Or the sound of laughter or a loved one's voice? One Suncoast woman lost the ability to hear all those things, and yet she used her loss to help others.

When Joan Haber lost her hearing, she threw herself into a battle to help others with hearing loss -- and then experienced a modern day medical miracle.

She was born and raised in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. At age 30 is when the trouble started. "I developed a hearing loss…really didn't know I had a hearing loss, but people around me started telling me I had a hearing loss."

She got hearing aids, but still she had trouble hearing. "My employer, one day shortly before the passage of Americans with Disabilities Act, said ‘you are having too much trouble hearing. I think we'll let you go.’"

She was crushed. But at age 36, she went back to college. "I got a degree in sociology and a Masters in demography."

And on a trip to Ireland, she met the love of her life: Sarasota's Steven Haber. "I was traveling, and he was traveling, and we just happened to meet one day in a coffee shop."

Her hearing loss even affected her love life. "I even tried to hide it from him. He was trying to be amorous; I was afraid if he got too close. Finally had to tell him and he was very supportive."

They were married she moved to Sarasota. And as she became totally deaf, she threw herself into work with Hearing Loss Associaiton. "I was the chairperson of the State Counsel for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. I was appointed by Governor Bush, and I served for 6 years."

Then in her silence...a miracle. At age 52 she got a cochlear implant, and then a second one. "It’s an internal device implanted into your cochlear, and they are about the size of a dime they include a magnet inside your head."

With it, she has 97% normal hearing. It all sank in at a Three Dog Night concert, when she could hear the words and the music so clearly. "That Three Dog Night concert was just the highlight of my life."

And what has she learned through her incredible journey? "That we are very resilient people. We have within us all the answers to whatever comes our way."

Joan was nominated by Cindy Black. If you know someone you think deserves to be honored as an Amazing Woman, just email your nomination and some information about her to AmazingWomen@MySuncoast.com.

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