LIBERTY HILL, Texas — The Jefferson family knew almost immediately after the birth of their son Cole that something was wrong with his hearing. Several tests showed that he was unresponsive to sounds and ultimately could not hear.
“I was born deaf in both ears, about as deaf as you can get,” says Cole Jefferson.
The Jeffersons decided that Cole needed surgery at just 10 months old to get cochlear implants. The device was able to partially restore hearing. Cole would need speech therapy to improve his communication skills growing up.
“It took a lot of time and effort,” says Michelle Jefferson, Cole’s mother. “From the moment he got hearing aids, we were in speech therapy three days a week.”
When Cole started school, he could be in class with any student who could hear. His hearing aids aren’t perfect, but he managed to thrive despite some challenges.
“I made adaptations for myself knowing that I can’t hear when it’s loud around me,” Cole says. “I got good at self-representation. I’m not afraid to ask questions and ask teachers to do certain things because I won’t be able to hear them either.
These adaptations and his dedication to school propelled Cole into the top five of his senior class at Liberty Hill High School. He also entered Johns Hopkins University, one of the best colleges in the country.
“I really think it helped shape his personality and what he wants to achieve,” says Michelle Johnson. “I’m just delighted that he has all these opportunities in front of him.”
One of those opportunities is the chance to play baseball in college. Playing sports has presented unique challenges over the years, but Cole has found his passion in playing baseball and pitching.
“On the mound, the coaches have signs for everything, the receivers have signs for everything, it’s easier to be in communication,” Cole said. “Pitching is probably the job I’m best suited for right now.”
“I think there’s a lot of times where we hear things happening and we’ll ask him after the game ‘You know what they were saying in the dugout?’ but Cole doesn’t know when he’s on the mound,” Michelle explains.
Cole was one of Liberty Hill’s best pitchers this season and helped them reach the playoffs. Although he has accomplished so much, Cole has so much more than he wants to do. He plans to study chemical and biomolecular engineering at university, with the possibility of focusing on things that are very personal to him.
“It’s amazing to see his struggles and how cochlear implants changed his life to wanting to study something in engineering,” Michelle says. “Everything seems to revolve around making the world a better place, whether it’s making new advances in technology to help someone like him.”
Cole’s mom says they always told him he was no different from anyone else, to do whatever you want and not let anything hold you back. She says he took them at their word and did just that.