LEWISTON — Jordan Lau is driven. The Edward Little senior has worked since middle school to graduate among the top of her class.

Two years ago, when it started looking like a possibility — if she kept up her grades — she began thinking about what she’d say if she got the chance to make a speech during graduation.

She started planning.

Saturday night, Lau told hundreds of people for the first time that she’s deaf.

She was nervous before the speech at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee, speaking as third in her class, but she’d had plenty of time to think about the moment.

“I thought, ‘what a nice way to say goodbye to everyone, letting everyone know that I have hearing loss,'” Lau, 18, said. “I wanted to make it a surprise for everyone. I’m not just an artist, I’m not just a perfect student, I’m also someone with a disability.”


Over the years, she’s worn ponytails in gym class low enough to cover her hearing aids or worn one hearing aid at a time and tucked her hair behind the opposite ear — little tricks so people would never suspect. She hoped.

Lau said she hated the idea of being different, and what that might bring. That it would scare people away.

“I told my first friend that I had hearing loss in sixth grade,” she said. They’d been best friends since kindergarten. She didn’t tell the next friend until sophomore year.

Delicate hairs inside Lau’s ears were damaged at birth. She has 70 percent hearing now, and it will keep getting worse over time, until she’s entirely deaf. She’ll have to learn sign language and learn to read lips.

“That scares, me, too,” she said.

She used part of her speech to apologize to classmates if she had seemed cold, indifferent or didn’t respond to something they’d said. It wasn’t personal.


“I feel like that happened a lot,” Lau said. “I feel like I didn’t talk as much, probably, because I couldn’t keep up with the conversation. Especially quiet conversation.”

But, she said, now she’s in a better place. She’s more confident. Her eyes are more open to everyone having some challenge in their life.

“I thought, if I had hearing loss, ‘what’s the big deal, really?'” she said. “You probably have eyesight problems, you probably have a skin condition, a this or that. We all share something in common and we should’t be afraid to express ourselves.”

This fall, she’s headed off to the University of Maine to study medical laboratory sciences. This summer, she’ll express herself through pieces each month in the Lewiston-Auburn Art Walk.


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