Our newest Patient Hero Feature is another special double-feature – this time on a GRAND scale – as we celebrate Edmond 6th grader, Hadley, and her grandfather, PaPa, aka Dennis Krueger – both Hearts for Hearing patients. Thanks to the hearing care they receive, both enjoy every moment together listening and talking with each other – and not missing a sound, a tease, the laughter that follows, or a “Gotcha!”
11-year-old Hadley helped inspire her grandfather – and still does every day. At 3 ½ years of age, at a Mother’s Day Out class, Hadley referred for additional follow-up at a routine hearing test. “It is probably sinus pressure and fluid in her ears,” thought Mom and Dad. They felt certain her hearing was fine because they interacted with her and watched her relate with family members as a toddler. Still, Hadley had experienced many ear infections, and the parents wanted to be certain everything looked okay.
Mom brought Hadley to Hearts for Hearing where she was diagnosed with significant hearing loss in her right ear. “We were shocked, we felt guilty because we thought we had missed this huge thing occurring with our daughter,” says Mom. “We also worried about what this would mean for her future … Would she miss out on things? … Would she be made fun of for wearing hearing technology? … Would she be self-conscious?” The family says those thoughts are a blur now, and they are so proud of her and how Hadley has grown into such a fun-loving, caring, responsible young person.
In Pre-K, at 4-years-of-age, Hadley received her right-side Bone Anchored Hearing Aid (BAHA). Mom and Dad say Hadley was a little nervous and very brave. As part of Hadley’s activation a few weeks after she received the BAHA, her Hearts for Hearing audiologist asked Hadley to be sure to pick out a song to play when her device was turned on for the first time. True to her personality, Hadley chose Try Everything by Shakira from the movie Zootopia. “It was an amazing moment when she said she could hear the song clearly, better than she ever had,” says Mom, who adds, “Honestly, that song has become an anthem for Hadley’s hearing loss and advocating for herself over the years … It will be a memory that stays with me for the rest of my life, and I smile every time I hear that song.”
Two years ago, Hadley decided to have surgery placing the hearing aid magnet permanently behind her ear. Hadley is in 6th grade now, and the family says she has worked hard to become her own biggest advocate when it comes to hearing. “We encourage her to be responsible, she places her aid in the dry caddy every night, she changes batteries when power gets low, she keeps extra batteries at school just in case. We remind her no one really knows or remembers she can’t hear except her, and we want her to always have the confidence to speak up for herself.” In school, she’s now at the age where she changes classes every hour, can choose elective courses, and loves hanging out with friends. Hadley is also playing the upright bass in her 6th grade orchestra class this year.
By every account, Hadley has – and is – accomplishing a lot. Just ask her PaPa who plays card games and board games like Sorry! with her.
“One of the family’s greatest moments, in my opinion, was when Hadley’s first BAHA became fully functional,” says Papa Dennis, and she told her mother, ‘I can hear you, Mommy!’ …tears and hugs flowed freely.” He then adds, “My story is less dramatic.” He knew his hearing loss was deteriorating, and he found himself not hearing his wife when she called him from another room. He also found himself on the sidelines and not engaging with family and friends at gatherings. His wife and family members encouraged that he schedules a hearing exam. Dennis realized that he was taking great pride as he watches “his Hadley” do so well. He thought to himself, if she can do it, I should be willing to try. Dennis says he chose The Adult Clinic at Hearts for Hearing specifically because of the excellent care he saw his granddaughter receive.
Of course, he sees a different audiologist and says Hearts for Hearing “has a quality staff for all ages.” Dennis tells us the testing, fitting, and follow-up procedures were very professional and pleasant, then adds, “The first day of wearing my hearing aids, I noticed a wonderful change … I could hear – and distinguish between – different songbirds in my backyard. I did not know what I had been missing.” He also admits another result, “The volume on the tv is quite a bit lower now. I should have been tested years ago, but I procrastinated.”
He misses out no more! Dennis especially enjoys all his grandchildren’s activities, including Hadley’s dance, golf, and basketball. He and Hadley make respectable amounts of noise as they cheer on their favorite teams, the OSU Cowboys, and Buffalo Bills. In addition to board and card games, they also like to go to Top Golf, eat out and shop in Stillwater, and the two are always planning their next Disney trip – whenever that can happen.
The Kruegers encourage people struggling with hearing loss to try and not lose hope. There is hope at a place like Hearts for Hearing. For children and adults, hearing loss does not have to be a hurdle. It can be a platform. The technology and services are out there. Yes, finances can be a barrier, but there is help there too. Our hope is that as many people as possible – of all ages – are aware of their hearing health, seek help, and take care of it in the same way they take care of other health conditions.
Hearts for Hearing was founded in 2003 with a mission of providing hearing technology and speech therapy services at no out-of-pocket costs to families with children who were born deaf. 20 years later, we are still teaching babies and children born deaf to listen and talk. Our services have expanded to include adult hearing care with offices in Oklahoma City, Tulsa, and Shawnee. Our team of professionals has grown from our original three people to 117 now. Hearts for Hearing continues to provide the first set of hearing technology and therapy to children at no out-of-pocket costs to families, and now includes Newborn Hearing Screen services, major research initiatives, Eyes Open Ears On programming, and its own 3D ear mold lab.