Trinity-Placentia Flyers’ forward Corey Drake doesn’t consider his hearing impairment a disability.
“It’s a challenge,” insists the 21-year-old from Long Cove who was born with 60 to 65 per cent of what is considered normal hearing.
“I’m not down on myself because I have hearing aids.”
“It’s hard sometimes, but you’ve gotta keep your head up and keep your eyes open.”
His impairment doesn’t get in the way during one-on-one conversations or when he’s in a small group of people, but it becomes harder to pick out words when he’s in a larger gathering and there is a lot of ambient noise
“If I’m in a crowded area and someone’s yelling my name, I can hear them, I just don’t know where it’s coming from,” says Drake.
Drake doesn’t wear his hearing aids on the ice, but he says it has never caused a problem communicating with his linemates. His numbers this season, his second with the Kent St. John’s junior league’s
I.J. Smith & Son Flyers, back that up. Drake finished fourth in team scoring with 14 goals and 17 assists.
It helps, of course, to have familiar linemates.
“I’m with two fellows who I’ve played with since high school hockey, and we really clicked then,” Drake says of Mason Reid and Lee Newhook, overagers who left the Conception Bay North Stars to join the Flyers prior to this season.
“I still hear those high pitches and sounds I recognize. And the two guys aren’t shy. If they want the puck, they’re going to yell for it, I guarantee you that.”
Trinity-Placentia goalie Justin Harnum says Drake and his linemates have a great chemistry.
“He’s played with Mason and Lee all through high school and they’re always tic-tac-toe perfect,” says Harnum.
The Flyers will be hoping for a continuation of that symapatico as they open their quarter-final playoff series against the Southern Shore Breakers Friday night (see accompanying story).
Initially diagnosed with hearing problems in Grade 1, Drake got his first set of aids in Grade 3 when the curriculum switched from visual to auditory learning.
At first, his mother, Curlene, was worried the aids would single him out.
“He was the only child to have them and I was skeptical (about) whether the kids would torture him to death,” she says.
“But they didn’t.”
That’s not to say there haven’t been some minor drawbacks along the way. In grade school, Drake was routinely placed at a desk at the front of the class and even today, he says the hearing aids, while crucial, “are the most annoying things you can imagine.
“You can’t get close to water and if you break one, it’s such a small technology that’s it’s a big problem.
“It’s not like I can go to the store and get another pair right away. I’ve got one broken now and I’ll be upwards to two or three weeks waiting (to have it repaired).”
But for all the little annoyances, Drake has, in some ways perhaps, benefitted from his hearing impairment, including having learned how to effectively read lips.
“It’s better when people are right in front of me. I don’t know if it’s that I can hear them better or if I can pick up on what they’re saying better because I can see what they’re talking about.”
It’s also afforded him a lifetime of completely believable excuses for not doing something.
“I don’t know how many times Mom is after coming out in the living room at 3:30 in the morning and I’m still watching TV or playing Xbox and she’d say ‘the TV’s too loud, turn it down’ and I’d say ‘Mom, come on, I’m deaf. I gotta.’”