By Jyoti Madhusoodanan
It’s a team sport, but indoor polo doesn’t take much talking—which helped make it an instant fit for Peter Hauser. During his freshman year of college, a few horse hours were a weekly routine: polo three times a week, together with training ponies or coaching local students in the sport. But Hauser had a stronger motivation than his love of the game: The horses didn’t expect him to hear them.
At the age of 5, a bout of spinal meningitis left Hauser completely deaf. While in middle school, he attempted to use cochlear implants—considered an experimental treatment at the time—but the prosthetics proved ineffective. The procedures and monitoring nonetheless had an upside: They provided his earliest experiences working with researchers, which helped him become interested in pursuing science himself.
Hauser had a longstanding interest in human psychology. As a deaf student, however, he didn’t think he could work with people as research subjects, so he chose to major in animal sciences instead. But when his advanced courses proved challenging, he began taking evening sign language classes at a community college so that he could use an interpreter to keep up—he had relied on lip-reading up to that point—and the decision was life-changing.