The Hidden Hearing Heroes Awards were presented to nine deaf or hard of hearing individuals who have made a contribution to Irish society, community, or their workplace. Among the nine recipients was Orla O’Sullivan, a deaf and blind music teacher from Cork, according to the Irish Times.

The awards are presented by the Hidden Hearing and Irish Deaf Society and the awards “demonstrate the outstanding achievements by those within our community and the excellent contributions they make to Irish life.”

O’Sullivan was the Workplace Award Winner and she has surmounted the obstacles to teach music to scores of students from beginners to degree earning level. Her students include both deaf and hearing musicians.

O’Sullivan says that she teaches the standard way, but she prepares differently from other teachers. “I memorize everything, even the questions that are normally asked by students at the various levels. With my hearing aids on and with close lip-reading I can usually make out what is being said.”

She said that teaching to a deaf or hearing impaired student is more challenging for both student and teacher, but she is up to the challenge. O’Sullivan added that she can sign and relate to deaf and hearing impaired students in a way that a fully hearing and sighted teacher cannot. She believes that the job will become easier with advancements in reading and hearing devices and amplifiers.

“As regards the music, again, with my hearing aids on, I can hear/feel some of the notes. The notes I cannot hear, I hear in my imagination. As regards sight, what I see is normal for me. I can only imagine what a person with perfect vision can see.”

O’Sullivan became deaf and vision impaired after being treated with a drug to combat double pneumonia, which she had contracted at six weeks old. Her mother encouraged her at a young age to learn the piano after she noticed that the young O’Sullivan reacted well to certain kinds of music, such as the vibration from piano notes.

Other award recipients included student award winner Killian McDonnell who was the first deaf student with Down Syndrome to pass his Leaving Cert, and media award winner John Cradden who has made a successful career as a deaf journalist and is currently writing a book about his experience with cochlear implant.

Music teacher Orla O'Sullivan gives a lesson to one of her pupils, AlanIrish Sun