Special Report: The Perfect Gift

Nationally, one in five people suffer from hearing loss, according to the Hearing Health Foundation. Of course, finding out that you are losing one of your five senses can be utterly frightening.

However, 13-year old Becky Gunn of Orange Grove has managed to excel despite her hearing loss. She sings, and she has perfect pitch.

Dennis Richardson, director of choral activities at Del Mar College, where Becky sings with the choir, says the ability to hear a tone and identify it on a scale like Becky can do is rare.

"I've probably known all my life time, maybe a dozen people that have had perfect pitch," Richardson said.

Some believe you are born with the ability. Others say you can develop it with lots of practice.

"It may be also from playing the piano for so long," Becky said. "I've been playing since I was seven."

What may be even more amazing is that Becky is completely deaf. She relies on cochlear implants to hear.

"This is what picks up the sound and transmits it to here," Becky said, showing her implants. "It's amazing that I can be deaf and make music and teach music; have perfect pitch. It's all truly a blessing."

Statistically, two to three children out of 1,000 in the U.S. are born deaf, according to the Hearing Health Foundation. Becky lost her hearing at two and a half years of age. Her 11-year old sister, Sarah, was born deaf, and also utilizes cochlear implants -- and yes, both are in the choir.

"It's really fun because you get to hear all these voices mixing together, creating a beautiful sound," Sarah said.

Lara and Bill Gunn worried about their daughters adapting, despite their challenges. They never imagined both daughters would develop a love for singing and playing the piano.

"What we thought was a disaster at the time, God has taken it and made it into something more beautiful than we could have ever imagined," Lara Gunn said.

"You see what they're doing, where they're going, the opportunities they have had through the choir," Bill Gunn said.

And to other children dealing with hearing loss, Sarah Gunn says to "have faith," and Becky says to "get into music if you can. Good music is good. It's relaxing."

Science is improving cochlear implant technology. Devices are getting smaller and battery life is improving.

The Gunn sisters say they will never stop following their interests. After overcoming these immediate challenges, they say stepping on stage in front of a large crowd is nothing.

You can see the Del Mar College Children's Chorus and Woodwind Ensemble perform at 7 p.m. Monday at Del Mar's Wolfe Recital Hall on their East Campus.


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