Her ethereal voice gracefully envelopes the room as she moves from note to note. Now working on her fifth album, Mandy Harvey is an accomplished singer/songwriter who travels around the United States performing with her band.
Watching her sing and communicate to the crowd while onstage, it is difficult to understand Harvey is hearing impaired.
Harvey lost her hearing due to a neurological disorder when she was attending college as freshman at Colorado State University. Pursuing a music degree, the loss of her hearing made it impossible to continue the courses required. With the realization that she was not going to be able to pursue her love of music, Harvey was devastated.
“Losing my hearing was my biggest fear,” Harvey said. “It was the thing that I had dreaded ever since I was a child. I had had ear infections and surgeries and periods of time where my eardrums had stopped vibrating, so it was always a very real fear.”
Depressed, she spent time pondering why it was her who had lost hearing. Her greatest passion in life was music and it wasn’t fair that it was being taken away from her.
“I lost myself,” she said. “I felt like I had fallen down a well. I was very content with just sitting in the dark, disappointed and angry for the rest of my life.”
One day, her father put a guitar in her hand and asked her to play. Disheartened from her new disability, she was hesitant. However, with encouragement and a determination not to forfeit her passion, she began playing and singing again, even with the inability to hear.
“When you’re sitting there, day after day after day, you just get tired of it,” Harvey said. “I wanted to do something else, so I made the effort and the decision to start over, to make that climb, to try and find out who I am now.”
As the years have gone on, Harvey has overcome her disability and has accomplished more in her music career than she ever thought she would have.
With her experience overcoming a disability, Harvey has dedicated her time toward helping others overcome their disabilities, in particular, veterans returning home from war.
“I like doing volunteer work for places that are associated with No Barriers or the Invisible Disabilities Association and through that I work with wounded veterans,” Harvey said. “I have a lot of love for the military. A lot of my family is in the military and I was going to be in the military. My heart is with the military.”
Harvey believes she can help others dealing with disabilities by understanding through her own experiences. She says that she is empathetic toward them because she understands the pain that is involved with having to start your life over.
Harvey explains that the people she works with are strong people and don’t want to be pitied. Like the people she talks about, Harvey doesn’t want to be pitied either.
“I want people to show up and just enjoy the music,” Harvey said. “A lot of people want to hyper-fixate on my disability and to me it’s just part of my life. I don’t want people to show up to a concert with pity. I want them to say ‘wow that was good music,’ not ‘wow that was good music for a deaf person.’ I want people to also see that I am doing this and I am going for it. I want people to be encouraged and try their own things and do the things that make them happy.”