How did you get involved with the issue of hearing loss?
Well, a few months back, probably about six months, my wife and I did a piece in People magazine and decided to tell whoever wanted to listen that we have a son who was born with hearing loss. Just like any regular family, we are simply trying to figure it out and do the right thing for our son. Since then, a lot of great organizations have asked me to talk to them and share my story. I’m certainly not an expert, but I think by talking about it and sharing our experiences it can shed some light on the issue and help some families out there that really don’t know how to deal with it or what to do next. We were certainly in that position, and we were lucky enough to have good friends and good people around us to point us in the right direction and tell us that, you know, there is hope and there are plenty of things that can be done for your son or daughter.
How is your son doing?
He’s great. My son is thirteen months old and he’s the happiest kid in the world. You know, loves to eat and gets crazy and cranky when the banana does not come fast enough to his plate, like any thirteen-month-old, but he has had hearing aids in his ears since he was a month old, so he’s very used to it. That’s another thing, the simple fact of having them in his ears, it’s not foreign to him and that’s part of the early detection as well. They are a huge help; he is hearing like a normal thirteen-month-old, and that’s amazing given that he was born with severe hearing loss. There’s moderate, severe and profound. Profound is pretty much completely deaf. So, for him to have severe hearing loss and to hear as well as he does is really cool.
That’s great. You said you went to People magazine or they came to you, and you told your story. When people read that story or hear about it, what do you want them to take away from it?
I think anytime you open up and share your experiences, you never know how it’s going to affect people. It really has a lot of value, you know, one thing you say could move a great many people. As I said, when we first found out that our son was born with hearing loss, we were, you feel like you can’t breathe, you know, it’s just overwhelming … you’re in shock and lots of different thoughts run through your head. Like how’s he going to live, what’s he going to do, is he going to have the same opportunities as everybody else, little things, you know. The thing is kids don’t listen to you anyways so (laughs), but if he’s in danger and I want to call to him, he might not hear me. Everything you can imagine goes through your mind. And that was all quieted when someone said that people can be born with severe hearing loss and still have a normal life. And there are lots of different routes. Some parents, even with all the technology available today, say no to hearing aids and cochlear implants and operations, because that’s the way their child was born, and I can totally relate to that. It’s part of the world of hearing loss so to speak, and it’s just one option and I think what I have learned is that there are many different routes for a life with hearing loss and everyone is okay.
You’re being honored with the Hear the World Award. How does that feel?
Oh, it feels great. I really didn’t do much to earn these awards. I won another award called The Annie Award which is named after John Glenn’s wife, Senator John Glenn, the astronaut. His wife had hearing loss, so they have an award named after her, and I realize that I have a story and it helps people. I have some celebrity, and that helps raise awareness. There are of course amazing scientists and doctors and lay people involved in the organization, raising awareness, telling people about hearing loss, they’re really doing the work and if I can get up and tell my story and that helps the cause, then that’s great.
You’ve got an upcoming tour. How do you have time to do all these things?
Yeah, I’ve got two little boys, and another baby on the way in May and the Backstreet Boys and New Kids on the Block are going on tour in May as well, so I’m going to be a real popular husband in my house when I’m having fun on the road, and my wife’s going to have her hands full! But she’s been more or less saying ‘get out of the house, it’s fine,’ you know? That’s the big secret … most of the time the moms and the wives say ‘scram, let me deal with this.’ But obviously we’re incredibly blessed that we have two healthy kids and another one on the way; it’s going to be busy! But you’ve gotta bring home the bacon, and that’s what I do for a living, so.
What can the fans expect on this tour?
The New Kids on the Block have been back together for a couple of years now and we’ve just been so blessed to be able to do a bunch of tours. We try to do something different on every tour and we really have the best fans in the world, and I know a lot of bands say that, but we believe it and we have a great relationship with them and we just want to bring something new to the table every time, so this time we’re touring with another band, one of the biggest groups in Pop history. The two fan bases coming together is awesome, but the best thing about it is that both groups really get along, there’s a lot of mutual respect and we just want to make it the best tour that we’ve been involved with. We’re doing 50 dates in the USA alone. It’s a big arena tour and it’s going to be interesting to figure out how to put together a show with, thankfully, 20 hit records between the two groups. It’s going to be fun.
What’s your favorite memory from being on the road?
Well, the first time around, that was a while ago so ... the madness sticks out more, and that’s okay, it was crazy. Our fans were so young and they just wanted to rip you to pieces and that’s fun for a while, but it gets kind of insane. But that whole experience, the downtime in-between, being able to travel around the world and see things that normally you just see in a history book in high school, and you’re actually in those places experiencing it first-hand, is such a blessing and such a gift. But to be able to come back as an adult and sing, keeping it fresh and interesting, and reliving everything, is really cool.
Let me see what else… I heard your eldest is really looking forward to the new family member. Can you tell us about it?
Yeah, my eldest son, Griffin, he’s three, and it’s his baby in mommy’s tummy. He’s thrilled. We are thinking about names … he’s trying to figure out a name … he comes up with crazy names like Oneapheaus. I don’t know where that came from, but I don’t think we’re going to name the baby Oneapheaus. But it’s great. It’s the biggest, greatest blessing in the world, having kids. It’s the most challenging, but also the most rewarding.
How did you get involved with the issue of hearing loss?