Our patients are – and have always been – the real heroes of our history. They inspire us and motivate us. In celebration of our 20th anniversary, we want to give you a chance to meet some of our patients and hear about their journey. Every story is representative of hundreds more. We hope you enjoy our 2023 Hearts for Hearing Hero features, and we begin – appropriately enough at the very beginning – with Peter Hardt.
Peter, 23 years old now, was the first baby in the state of Oklahoma identified with hearing loss through Oklahoma’s mandated newborn hearing screening program which required, beginning in 2000, that all newborns receive a hearing test before discharge from the hospital. As Peter says, “I was diagnosed with bilateral profound hearing loss a day or two after I was born,” then added, “I started at Hearts for Hearing before I can even remember, when it was called H.E.L.P. (Hearing Enrichment Language Program), and they tried hearing aids first, which helped but not as much as originally hoped.”
Peter continues, “So, I received my first implant with Dr. Baker when I was 13 months old and began auditory-verbal therapy with Joanna weekly until I was about 5” he recalls, coaching my parents and teaching me to listen and talk. As soon as cochlear implants became available for both ears, I received a second implant at four years of age. He attended Edmond Public Schools and knew of one other child who had cochlear implants. Peter says their families worked together with Hearts for Hearing to introduce sound field systems and remote microphones(equipment a teacher uses to send sound directly to a child wearing hearing devices) to the mainstream classroom.
Peter says he “grew up with” Hearts for Hearing and has fond memories of attending summer camp with fellow children with hearing loss. He volunteered as a summer camp counselor when he was in his teens and enjoyed working with the younger kids. He still has annual routine cochlear implant mapping sessions with Sara Neumann and participates in research with both Sara and Jace Wolfe.
Last May, Peter earned his master’s degree in accounting from the University of Oklahoma. He completed internships as part of his education and has now begun his professional career as a tax associate with the firm Grant Thornton in Oklahoma City. He has completed three of four CPA exams, passing with relative ease, and is studying for the fourth exam. Peter is outgoing, and says he enjoys when people ask him about his cochlear implants. He loves traveling and has been to Europe and Asia. He also has a steady girlfriend.
Peter is also thoughtful. He recently recounted that ironically, his CPA exams were held in a building that required him to drive past all three Hearts for Hearing locations since the beginning in 2003. He called it a “beautiful metaphor” because he reflected that while he was trying to accomplish this major career life achievement, he physically saw all stages of his Hearts for Hearing journey which made his listening and talking opportunities possible for him.
“I encourage people to wear their devices as much as possible. It is how you learn to listen and talk. I’m incredibly thankful my parents had the foresight to get me cochlear implants, and to do everything possible to make sure I wore my devices literally every minute I was awake. I only take them off to shower or swim. The catch-phrase Eyes Open Ears On is absolutely correct.”
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.