In January 2023, when we began our Hearts for Hearing Patient Hero features as part of our 20th Anniversary Celebration, we knew we wanted you to meet Michael Goldbeck. He came to us in our earliest days, and Michael is a living example of the possibilities achieved by a child born deaf who learns to listen and talk. You will be impressed as you learn all that Michael is accomplishing.
Even though his schedule is remarkably busy as a resident in Pathology at OU Medicine, Michael took time to share his journey with us. Of course we walked away very proud of his educational and professional accomplishments, but the lasting memory we have is his continual expression of gratitude; for his caregivers at Hearts for Hearing, for his teachers, educators, and administrators at Edmond Public Schools, for his friends who, in his words, always treated him “like part of the crowd”, and most importantly, “my family – my parents and sisters who attended many speech-language sessions and events to help raise awareness, and especially my mom, who spent endless hours working with me on my speech and reading skills at home when I was younger, and attended all my speech-therapy sessions. I am eternally grateful for all ofthem.”
Michael was diagnosed with bilateral, profound hearing loss in February of 1998 at 18 months of age. At the time, his family was living in New Mexico however his father had just accepted a faculty position at OU College of Dentistry in Oklahoma City. His mom immediately began researching hearing care services in Oklahoma City, and her search led her to Speech-Language Pathologist, Joanna Smith (our founder), who was with an organization that in 2003 became Hearts for Hearing. At that time, it was known as the Hearing Enrichment Language Program, or H.E.L.P.
At 24-months-old, Michael received his first cochlear implant, and he attended regular speech language therapy sessions. Three years later, Michael became a student at Edmond’s ClegernElementary, and he was among the first cochlear implant users to ever attend Edmond Public Schools. “My principal and all my teachers were seasoned, talented, and kind educators who were willing to ensure that any accommodations I needed were provided.” Michael adds that they recognized one of his needed accommodations, a soundfield system complete with closed captioning, was a benefit to all students. “By the time I was in third grade, the school’s PTA had purchased those systems for every classroom in the school.” Publicity around this effort prompted Edmond Public Schools’ special education department to compete for – and receive – grant funds to place the systems in every elementary school in the district.
As a student, Michael excelled, and he competed on academic teams, and participated in orchestra and with social and philanthropy clubs. In 2007, Michael was nominated in the student category for the Oticon (a hearing technology manufacturer) Focus on People Award, and he won. Michael and his mom were invited to attend a national conference in Boston where he gave an acceptance speech to an audience of hundreds of audiologists and hearing care professionals.
As Michael’s story spread, leaders at Edmond’s high schools chose Hearts for Hearing as the beneficiary of their yearly, major, school-wide fundraisers and Michael, still in elementary school, was a speaker at their assemblies. In total, over a period of a successive years beginning in 2007, Edmond Memorial’s SWINE Weeks, Edmond Santa Fe’s Double Wolf Dare Week, and Edmond North’s BALTO raised approximately $500,000 to help ensure babies born deaf have the opportunity to learn to listen and talk like Michael. His story helped drive that generosity, for which we at Hearts for Hearing, are eternally grateful.
Michael graduated from high school in 2015, attended Oklahoma State University on an academic scholarship, and graduated from the Honor’s College there in 2019 with degrees in Biochemistry, Microbiology and Molecular/Cell Biology, and a Minor in Chemistry. He attended the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine and graduated in May 2023. In July, he began his 4-year residency in Pathology. Michael half-jokingly says, “If I survive my residency years, I plan to do a fellowship in Hematopathology, which is the study of diseases of the cells that make up our blood.
All we can add is WOW – we know you can do anything to which you set your mind – Hearts for Hearing is so proud of you, and we wish you much continued success. Your hearing care journey with our organization has always reinforced our belief of the possibilities that can exist when you teach babies born deaf to listen and talk.
“Hearing aid and cochlear implant technology has come a long way since I began my journey to better hearing in 1998. Children are now identified with hearing loss at birth – and if intervention and treatment take place immediately (which it should) – there is no reason a child’s hearing loss should affect them detrimentally. They will be able to grow up with the same opportunities and experiences as their typical hearing peers.”
“My advice to parents is to follow-up diligently with their child’s hearing care provider to ensure that he/she is taking advantage of all the wonderful hearing aid technology now available to them as well as any speech and language services needed. Parents should have hope and high expectations for their child to able to do whatever they choose and become the best person they can be.”
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.