Utah Swimmer Doesn’t Let Hearing Loss Slow Her Down

Feb 21, 2024, 11:38 AM

Skyline HS Utah Swimmer Rori Sorenson Hearing Loss...

(Photo courtesy of Bettilyon Photography)

(Photo courtesy of Bettilyon Photography)

SALT LAKE CITY – Sports show people that perseverance and hard work can help any person overcome their challenges in order to find success.

From youth sports to the big leagues, an athlete who is truly driven will always outshine those who are unwilling.

Rori Sorenson, a freshman at Skyline High School, is a perfect example of this.

Adversity Sparks Motivation

Sorenson was born with severe to profound high-frequency hearing loss in both ears.

It took her nearly three years to get her first hearing aids which left her playing catch-up with her speaking and learning.

Because her loss is severe to profound in those high frequencies, even the best hearing aids aren’t able to give her full access to those sounds.

Sorenson started in a preschool program for kids who are deaf or hard of hearing. By Kindergarten, she was mainstreamed into the neighborhood schools.

From a young age, Sorenson fell in love with sports. She quickly found out that she loves to swim and has a knack for competitive swimming.

“I just kept getting better and better with each year,” Sorenson said. “I remember the first time I woman event at Age Group state, I was 12 in the 200Free. I’ve competed at bigger and bigger meets. I’ve just kind of kept going and kept pushing myself.”

Compete At Any Cost

There are some challenges that come with competing in sports with hearing loss.

Sorenson has trouble communicating with her coaches, teammates, and officials at times. When she is playing other sports such as volleyball, this isn’t felt as much because she can wear her bilateral hearing aids.

However, when she hits the pool, the hearing aids have to come out.

She doesn’t need to hear much during the race. But, she needed to know when the race started since she couldn’t hear the starting horn. Sorenson’s High School coach, Deni Cullom, and Club Coach, Todd Etherington, worked together with her to find a solution for this.

They got a tripod with a light on top of it that flashes when the horn goes off. This allowed Sorenson to get in the pool at the same time as everyone else without dealing with a delay.

Rori’s mother, Ashleigh, explained that it took a while for them to find the best solution.

“In the beginning, it was trial and error to figure out what would work,” Sorenson said. “When she was little, they put her in the lane closest to the officials and had the official do a hand signal. Usually, the fastest kids are in the middle lanes. Very quickly, Rori figured out she did not like being in that lane.”

Once she reached high school, Sorenson was swimming with the best of them.

In the upcoming 5A Utah High School State Swimming Championships this weekend, Sorenson is seeded first in the 200-yard Freestyle and second in the 500-yard Freestyle.

“I’m super competitive,” Sorenson said. “I would see my older brother and the kids around me and think ‘I gotta go beat them, I gotta go race them.’ I have a competitive drive in most sports I play. I just want to win and compete.”

Difficulty Is Not An Excuse

Even though competing in sports and learning may be harder for Sorenson due to her hearing loss, she never used it as an excuse.

It was only ever a reason to work harder. As a freshman in high school, Sorenson is enrolled in AP classes and thriving in her sport.

But, she isn’t anywhere near done. She wants to swim in college and is already looking at potential career paths.

“Definitely a goal for me, I want to try to swim in college and be on a team,” Sorenson said. “I think that would be so much fun. For a career path, I’ve always been interested in STEM. The other one would probably be in athletics. I want to have sports in my life.”

Everyone goes through hard times and adversity but that doesn’t define us. It’s about how you respond and how quickly you get up after getting knocked down.

Rori said it best. Keep pushing yourself and reap the benefits of your hard work.

“I would say that you need to keep pushing and keep pushing yourself,” Sorenson said. “There was a lot of doubt about what I could be able to do. I like to prove people wrong. I like to go out and compete and win races. It’s hard to keep pushing yourself but eventually, you’ll see the benefits. You’ll see that ‘I can do hard things, I can push myself’. That gives you a lot of confidence in yourself.”

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Chandler Holt is a co-host for the Jazz Notes podcast and a Digital Sports Producer for KSLSports.com, specializing in all things basketball and football. Follow Chandler on Twitter @ChandlerHoltKSL or on Threads @chandlerho1t.

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Utah Swimmer Doesn’t Let Hearing Loss Slow Her Down