Tuesday, September 14, 1999

XU's Bachus, a fine setter, is an even better reader

Hearing-impaired Seton grad helps lead Musketeers

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Sara Bachus has a special talent of reading lips from great distances.
(Ernest Coleman photo)

| ZOOM |
        Xavier volleyball coach Floyd Deaton recalls discussing game strategy with assistant Jackie Byrne when Deaton noticed Sara Bachus watching from across the restaurant.

        Deaton mouthed: “You heard that, didn't you?”

        Bachus nodded and smiled.

        “Now we've got to kind of watch what we say,” Deaton said.

        Bachus can read lips from great distances. The 5-foot-11 sophomore from Seton High is hearing-impaired.

        She has 60 to 65 percent of her hearing in her right ear, and just 20 to 30 percent in the left, in which she wears a hearing aid. She can detect deep sounds, like her father's voice, or the scream of a teammate. The noise is there, but she can't decipher the words.

        “This is just the way it is,” Bachus said. “I know I'm going to have it the rest of my life. I just don't let it get to me. I shouldn't let it get to me. If I get worse, I'm not going to be disqualified from anything else except hearing. Being deaf, you can do so many things in the world.”

        Bachus is one of the top players for the Musketeers, who enter today's home match against Eastern Kentucky (7 p.m., Schmidt Fieldhouse) with a 6-2 record.

        She has been reading lips since grade school and can sometimes figure out what opposing players are telling each other.

        “I always try to speak really clear,” said teammate Jenny Janszen, from Harrison. “When she first got here I was trying to enunciate everything and make sure she was looking at me. Now, I talk to her like everybody else.”

        Bachus was about 4 years old when her parents noticed she couldn't hear them when she was outside playing and they called for her to come in. Doctors discovered she had nerve damage in her ears.

        She wore a behind-the-ear hearing aid in preschool. By kindergarten, she was wearing one in each ear. By third grade, teachers were talking into microphones so Bachus could hear them through an FM receiver.

        As she got older, she grew longer hair to hide the aids. “I always felt self-conscious about it,” she said. “I always felt everybody was looking at me.”

        Now, her hair is short. She has a less noticeable hearing aid. She makes but a few allowances for her hearing problem.

        She can't wear her hearing aid in the water. Bachus also takes it out when it's time to go to sleep and has a vibrating alarm clock that shakes her pillow to wake her up.

        Last year, volleyball teammate and roommate Jill Hampton — on the bottom bunk of their dorm room bed — tried talking to Bachus one night, and ended up hitting the bottom of the top bunk to get her attention. When Bachus told her she couldn't hear her, Hampton noticed that she could see her roommate in the mirror on the back of their bathroom door.

        From then on, that's how they carried on late-night talks, with Bachus reading lips while watching Hampton in the mirror.

        “Before I got to know her, I thought it would be difficult to carry on good conversation, have a good friendship,” said Hampton, a Notre Dame Academy graduate.

        That's not been the case.

        “I don't really have trouble anymore communicating with her,” Hampton said. “I really don't think of her as hard of hearing.”

        Teammates do have to adjust on the court at times. The Xavier players use hand signals — a touch of the nose, a tug on an ear — to let Bachus know what play is being run.

        She has to look at Deaton to find out what instructions he is giving.

        “I've been here 10 years and she hits the ball as hard, if not harder, than anyone I've seen,” Deaton said. “She plays hard. She loves to win. She also has fun doing it. And she makes you smile. She's always making you laugh out there.”

        “She has a strong sense of where people are; I think hers is stronger than other people's,” said XU sophomore Amanda Lang, also a Bachus teammate at Seton. “She's always been good.”

        Bachus helped lead Seton to the 1996 Division I state title and was first-team all-state as a senior.

        Deaton said that if Bachus had full hearing, she could be a setter for a top-10 program.


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