Her soft, gentle voice could take your breath away. But the young woman in a red dress and black tights on the America’s Got Talent stage wasn’t just another good singer. As the judges spoke to Mandy Harvey, a woman standing close by swiftly translated everything into sign language for her. It was then revealed that Mandy lost her hearing when she was 18 years old, owing to a connective-tissue disorder.

Mandy, now 29, told the judges she has been singing since she was four, and refused to let her dream die even after the tragedy.

On the show, she performed the deeply personal song she wrote, titled Try:

I don’t feel the way I used to
The sky is gray, much more than it is blue
But I know one day I’ll get through
And I’ll take my place again
If I would try
There is no one for me to blame,
cause I know the only thing in my way is me
I don’t live the way I want to
That whole picture never came into view
But I’m tired of getting used to the day
So I will try.

Just before the performance, Mandy slipped off her shoes so her bare feet could feel the vibrations of the music to gauge the beat and tempo as she sang. She told the judges that while singing she uses her muscle memory and visual tuners and relies on her pitch.

It all seemed to work. Her performance got a standing ovation from the audience, as well as from Simon Cowell and his fellow judges.

“Honestly, I never think I’m gonna be surprised or amazed by people, and then you turn up,” said Cowell.

“Mandy, I don’t think you’re going to need a translator for this,” he said, while emphatically pressing the Golden Buzzer – a straight ticket to the semi-finals and live shows.