Community spotlight: Callie’s hearing aid helps her hear like a superhero
Hearing loss in one ear, or unilateral hearing loss, can often go unnoticed in children until they are in a classroom or more social environments. This was the case of seven-year-old Callie.
When Callie Huerta was born, she had a newborn hearing screening and passed it, giving her parents reason to believe Callie had normal hearing. Like any child, there were things she performed well at, and other points where she struggled. When Callie learned to talk, she had trouble with her speech and not being able to say her words clearly. Her parents enrolled her in speech therapy until age 6. But when Callie began Kindergarten the reasons for her struggles with speech became a bit more clear. After having a hearing test at school, she was diagnosed with unilateral hearing loss.
Callie has an enlarged vestibular aqueduct (EVA), which is the cause of the hearing loss in her right ear. Due to the progressive nature of EVA, doctors have advised that the Callie could lose all hearing in her right ear. She may even develop hearing loss in her left ear too.
“It was a huge shock at first,” says Ellen Huerta, Callie’s mother. “We found out she had (EVA) after she had a CT scan. It was a very depressing time for me and my husband’s life.”
After the initial shock of learning their child had hearing loss, Callie’s family found comfort in knowing there was finally an answer for why their daughter was struggling with speech. After the diagnosis, they began learning about hearing technology options available to her and support within the hearing loss community.
Solutions for children with unilateral hearing loss
Callie was fit with a Phonak Sky hearing aid about a year ago and has been excelling in school since her fitting, according to her mom. She also has a Roger system, which has made a big difference in group environments. Callie used to be shy and quiet in groups, but that all changed once she was wearing her hearing aid.
“Her teacher has told me how happy she is and that she is participating so much since having the hearing aid, and especially now that she has the Roger device,” says Ellen.
Ellen and her husband have also found hearing loss support through social media and are thrilled for how Callie’s hearing technology has changed her life.
Through their journey, Callie and her parents have also become hearing loss advocates, encouraging their daughter to be proud of her hearing technology and telling others how it helps her.
Advocating for children with unilateral hearing loss
Callie’s parents have been introducing Callie to self-advocacy skills and helping her learn how to talk about why she wears a hearing aid.
At school, Callie recently did a show-and-tell and told her class and teacher about her hearing aid. The kids were interested to learn about Callie’s hearing aid and wanted to know more about it, her mom says.
“All the kids that day kept telling the teacher how they wanted superhero hearing like Callie,” she says. “It was so special.”
“All the kids that day kept telling the teacher how they wanted superhero hearing like Callie.”
Ellen also shows her advocacy whenever she gets the chance. Recently, she was at a store where she stood up for Callie, by talking to a boy and his mother who called Callie’s hearing aid “weird.”
Ellen and Callie were in a store when Ellen heard a little boy asking his mom about Callie’s hearing aid. His mother just told him it was a ‘device’ and he replied “weird.” Ellen described in her Instagram post how she used this situation to advocate for her daughter.
“Callie looked defeated.” She says. “It was so awkward and I saw her face sadden. I then walked up to the boy and said, ‘This is Callie, she wears a hearing aid because it helps her hear like a superhero. She has magical hearing capabilities and she’s the coolest kid I know.’ Fast forward, we are in line and she tells me, ‘Mommy, I love you, thank you.’ Parents, it’s our job to raise good, kind human beings. Educate them. Talk to them. Raise them right.”
While advocacy and courage can be hard to show when in the midst of a moment like that, Ellen says she is committed to making hearing loss “normal” for her daughter.
“Callie has had some days where she wants to feel like a normal kid and not wear her hearing aids,” she says. “Of course, she gets tired easily and overwhelmed with homework, but honestly, she’s so inspiring to me. She never complains and is always so positive.”
So far, Callie’s confidence with her hearing loss and her hearing technology is thriving. She loves her hearing aid, her mom says, and shows it off with colorful molds.
The family is starting to take sign language classes, and are looking forward to using both hearing technology and sign language in their daily lives.
Do you have a child with unilateral hearing loss? How do you help them thrive in the classroom and in their social lives? Let us know in the comments!