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.
“Being deaf never really held me back on the court, except during the hottest times of the year,” says Tyler, who recalls, “I did sweat through many Nucleus-5 processors before I started using a waterproof sleeve, which helped.” According to Tyler, the Nucleus-7 handles a lot more sweat than older models, and he’s learned to dry-off his hair more often when playing, and he wears a cap. “He adds, I also keep my hair cut short on the sides and I use toupee tape to help keep processors in place.”
When Carter was born in early summer 2022, Mom and Dad say they were “blind-sided” when he was born with bilateral microtia. This is a condition defined as underdevelopment of the ear, which means the ear is either too small or not shaped as it should be, or both. Carter also had a cleft lip on the corner of his mouth. “The pregnancy and delivery had been perfectly normal,” says Mom, “we had no idea he would be born with these conditions until the moment he arrived.”
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.
Jorge, 10, and Sandra, 3, share a special bond that goes well beyond their family of five ties – a sound connection if you will – as both children were identified with hearing loss as babies, both fit with hearing technology by age two, and both participating in speech-language therapy at Hearts for Hearing.
“In many cases, these campers – our patients – are the only children in their school classroom or friend group with a cochlear implant or some other type of hearing technology,” says Hearts for Hearing President & CEO Joanna T. Smith, who adds, “At our camp, all children – and many of the volunteer group leaders – rely on technology to hear. It is great to see all these campers interacting, having fun, and making friends with other students who experience the world just like them.” Smith said the iFund grant makes it possible to create such a high-quality camp experience for campers and expressed her gratitude to the Oklahoma City Community Foundation for its continued support.
Rodri – as his family calls him – was born prematurely in Venezuela and spent the first weeks of his life in the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) and, according to his mom, survived thanks to oxygen support and antibiotics. She tells us, “We were told Rodri lost his hearing sometime in his first three months of life due to the antibiotics he had to be given to live.”
“We feel like he is aging backwards … everyday he experiences something brand new and exciting to him,” says Jonathan Vestal, son of our newest Patient Hero, Mr. Dan Vestal. As we celebrate our 20th anniversary year, we continue to highlight amazing Hearts for Hearing patient stories – and Mr. Vestal’s story is one that truly is incredibly special.
Josie was born at only 25 weeks and weighed one pound, eight ounces when she was delivered. Sadly, her twin brother passed away at 18-days-old. Thankfully, Josie was able to survive her tiny beginning, and she remained in the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit for 143 days.
Ava was two when she was diagnosed with bilateral hearing loss, and Lilly was diagnosed with deafness following her newborn hearing screen. Both sets of parents were independently referred to Hearts for Hearing and their little girls received their technology, audiology, and listening and spoken language therapy services through Hearts for Hearing. It was a teacher at their preschool who first introduced them and pointed out that they had something special in common, they each wear hearing technology.