Only a short time after she struggled to repeat words, a beautiful little girl named Purity is joyfully singing “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.” She does so impeccably, with clear, enunciated words, and a smile beaming on her face.
Purity was a very different girl four months prior. She came to a United Way service provider, the Callier Center for Communications Disorders, for a hearing assessment that would determine how this bright child heard the entire world around her.
“Say ‘please’,” the voice requested.
Purity tried but no words were formed, only a muted sound, that sounded more like a question.
“Say ‘sled’,” the speaker said.
“Sleb,” she replied.
Purity was born with a medical condition that caused her outer ears to be malformed; the opening to her ear canal is completely closed. The effect on her hearing makes speech impossible to decipher. This can dramatically hinder early childhood development, which experts agree is critical to prepare children for a lifetime of learning.
Fortunately, there are wearable hearing devices that bypass the outer ear structures and transmit sound directly to the inner ear by vibrating the skull. Purity had an older version of this device that was prone to breaking and had two-decades-old software. The poor quality of the hearing provided was noticeable in her speech development. When the device broke, as it often did, it would take weeks to repair. Although her father is fully employed as a commercial truck driver, the family could not afford replacement devices, which cost about $5,000 each.
For children like Purity that are born with hearing problems, their treatment requires a significant up-front investment followed by years of costly rehabilitative audiology and speech-language therapy services. Shanon Patrick, Director of Development at the Callier Center for Communications Disorders, explains how untreated hearing loss affects young children. She says, “When you can’t hear correctly or at all, engaging with family, classmates, and teachers can be a challenge. Learning is a challenge. Jobs are a challenge. Life is a challenge.”
According to Patrick, thousands of children are born each year in Texas with some form of hearing impairment. Due to recent changes in Medicaid reimbursement for hearing aids, there are limited treatment options for children from low-income families.
Thanks to support from the United Way, children like Purity can receive the care they need to reach their full potential in school and in life.
Last October, Purity received a brand new, state-of-the-art hearing aid with the capability to filter out noise and provide clearer sounds. A recent manufacturer’s upgrade has given Purity’s device Bluetooth capabilities. Purity can now talk with her father on the phone remotely, connect directly to her school’s FM system in class, and receive clear communications from her teachers.
Through the improvement in her hearing, Purity has also experienced a significant improvement in her quality of life. Her mom says, “It’s the simple things. She can tell me stories now. ‘Mom, this is what happened at school!’” Purity is now on a path to be more successful, if only for the simple fact that she can hear her teachers and participate with her classmates.
The simple things mean all the difference to one little girl.
Thanks to the United Way, and its partner the Callier Center for Communications Disorders, we are changing lives in North Texas.