WOODWAY, Texas — Hillary Albrecht has overcome a hearing impairment to pursue her dream of teaching music.
At just 12 months old, Albrecht developed chronic ear infections.
Bad advice and bad prescriptions led to hospitalizations and nerve damage.
By the age of 10, Albrecht says hearing in her right ear was muffled. Her left ear was completely deaf.
“Surgery was awful because every time I went in it meant general anesthesia, my head was getting shaved, and I was sick as a dog,” she said.
But through this time of sickness, something else was happening to Albrecht.
While her hearing was slowly fading — her love for music was exploding.
In high school, Albrecht played saxophone in band.
She relied on muscle memory and rhythm when she couldn’t hear herself in the group.
After she completed undergrad, she decided to go back to school to study music.
Albrecht earned her second B.A. through sheer grit.
“I don’t think there was a lesson for like the first semester where I didn’t cry," she said.
"I had huge imposter syndrome.
"I thought I do not belong here. I had a lot less training, major hearing issues, plus my husband was in school and I had a toddler.
"I thought, ‘This is a joke. I know this is.’
"But I had a teacher who really believed in me, and he said, ‘It’s not! Why can’t you do this?’ And if someone tells you that enough — you start to believe them.”
At age 17, Albrecht received her first hearing aid.
It’s a Cochlear Baha sound processor that sends audio vibrations directly to her brain.
But the technology was first-generation, and the microphone couldn’t process loud sounds very well — including the sound of her piano.
“Guts and glory — it might take everything you’ve got to make it through." she said.
"And it did take everything I had to make it through for a long time to feel like I could make it through. And I did! And I’m better because of it.”
Her degree helped open the door for Albrecht to pursue her dream of teaching music.
Today, she runs a private music school called Rhapsody on Mars in Woodway.
“I really like her a lot, and I feel like this is a perfect setup,” said piano student Ellianna Hetlend.
“She really likes music and she’s really into it. She’s also very patient so that makes it easier to learn.”
Then, three years ago, another medical breakthrough.
Albrecht upgraded to the newest model of the Cochlear Baha sound processor that could pick up the tones of her piano.
Suddenly the music that had been inspiring her students for more than a decade, she heard in a whole new way.
“I sat down at my piano, and I just cried. I didn’t know that it sounded like that,” said Albrecht. “I knew it sounded good, but I didn’t know it sounded that good.”
Albrecht said since she’s become an adult, she’s seen the Cochlear community around the world come together to support each other.
A highlight each year is a concert in Poland for musicians with hearing disorders.
This year, Albrecht says she plans to audition.