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Student overcomes hearing loss with surgically implanted device
Davis Sleigh is a fifth-grader and he’s set to attend East Middle School next year.
When he does, he’ll have a direct link to his teacher’s voice — he or she will wear a microphone, and Davis will hear the teacher’s voice through a hearing aid surgically implanted on his right side.
Davis has unilateral hearing loss, meaning he can only hear on his left side. He was born without a middle ear or ear canal on his right side.
“He’s not able to locate one specific sound. So, if he’s having a conversation with lots of noise around him, without having bilateral hearing he can’t locate the one specific source,” said Davis’ mom, Tina. “He gets really distracted with all the background noise.”
But with the assistance of a bone-anchored hearing aid — made possible through a medical grant from the UnitedHealthcare Children’s Foundation four years ago — Davis has the equivalent of 80 percent hearing on his right side.
That’s made a world of difference to Davis, Tina Sleigh said.
“It just really helps him to focus in class, because he does have directionality of sound,” she said.
Without that ability to locate specific sound, life can be incredibly distracting, especially in the whirlwind environment that school can be.
“He’s a very smart little boy. He started developing verbally fine, and was probably talking more than his average age range,” Tina Sleigh said. “But the research we did showed that when (kids without directionality of sound) are in class and they’re really having to drown out all the background noise, number one they’re tired at the end of the day, and then after a while they just sort of stop (trying to distinguish sounds). They’re easily distracted, they have behavioral issues, and they’re at an increased rate for failing in school.”
Because he’s had the hearing aid since just before first grade, Davis’ progress has been closely tracked.
Tina Sleigh said he’s excelled in all the areas they’ve looked at — grades, behavior, even his level of social interaction with other kids.
“He’s just your average 11-year-old,” she said, adding he swims on the Mavericks aquatic team and loves science and math.
He was recently accepted into a program for gifted kids and will be accelerated in both math and science.
Since first grade, Davis has had the help of an FM transmitter on his desk to better hear the teacher. Starting next year, he’ll be able to utilize a telecoil adapter that will provide that direct vocal link to the teacher’s voice, amplified by a microphone.
“It just feeds her voice right to him. He can be around the corner even, and he hears her clearly,” Tina Sleigh said.
She said that Davis had five surgeries by the time he was 5 years old, and for the first five years of his life, she and her husband, Dave, found it difficult to meet their insurance deductible each year.
In the sixth year, they happened upon the UnitedHealthcare Children’s Foundation medical grant program, applied for one of the grants, and received one to pay their insurance deductible that year.
“It’s really cool, because (Davis) didn’t necessarily have to have the surgery. So, it wasn’t a medical necessity,” Tina Sleigh said.
“It allowed us to be able to give him that gift of hearing,” she said.
Qualifying families can receive up to $5,000 per grant with a lifetime maximum of $10,000 per child to help pay for medical services through the children’s foundation program.
Families do not need to have insurance through UnitedHealthcare to be eligible.
There is no set number on the amount of grants the foundation will award in Colorado. In Colorado, UnitedHealthcare Children’s Foundation has awarded more than 271 grants since 2011.
Nationwide, since 2007 it has awarded more than 10,000 grants totaling more than $29 million.
Families can apply online at http://www.UHCCF.org.
A SOUND concept
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