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Community Spotlight: Nine-year-old equestrian rides into a new world of sound with her hearing aid

equestrian with hearing loss

Nine-year-old Rayna is living out her passion for riding while enjoying her new world of sound after receiving her first hearing aid.

Rayna has both hearing loss and Tourette’s syndrome but doesn’t let her disabilities hold her back. She thrives on her abilities and is embracing her new hearing technology.

Rayna was born premature and failed her newborn hearing screening. She has a cookie bite hearing loss in her left ear. Her family did not want to get her hearing aids until she was old enough to make her own decision about her hearing technology.

As she grew older and became more involved in activities, her family started to notice her hearing loss more than ever. She would constantly turn her head to listen with her good ear when talking with others. Also, her hearing loss was made obvious when she was the last to follow the announcer’s instructions when out in the equestrian ring. Rather than hearing the directions, she would hesitate and follow what other riders were doing. Another sign of hearing loss included concentration fatigue after school.

“We waited to aid her until she was fully capable to make the decision on her own. The truth is, I wish we did it sooner. She LOVES wearing her hearing aid and takes care of it on her own. The second the hearing aid was turned on, her eyes lit up as she was introduced to a whole new world,” says Rayna’s mom, Beth.

“The second the hearing aid was turned on, her eyes lit up as she was introduced to a whole new world.”

A world of difference with hearing aids

Although they knew that Rayna has a hearing loss, they never realized how much Rayna wasn’t hearing until she began wearing her hearing aid. They quickly discovered that she had never heard rain, crickets or water dripping.

After her mom’s eyes were opened to seeing her daughter hear brand new sounds she said, “my best advice is to listen to the advice of your audiologist and if they mention to aid, seriously consider it. It was eye-opening how many sounds she was actually missing. We were lucky enough to hear the comparison of sounds before the hearing aid and after the hearing aid in the ENT office. It was just shocking how much she was missing. Rayna is very proud of her hearing aid and shows it off to anyone who will look. It’s just part of who she is now.”

“Rayna is very proud of her hearing aid and shows it off to anyone who will look. It’s just part of who she is now.”

A passion to ride

Her passion for riding stems from her love for animals, especially horses. She started riding when she was six-years-old at riding camp. Her dedication to riding is easy to see through her willingness to practice five days a week on top of being an honor roll student. Together Rayna and her pony, Pocket Aces “Annie”, were the champions of the Georgia Hunter Jumper Association 11 and under Equitation end of the year reserve. Her goal is to go to Pony Finals. 

equestrian with hearing loss

When she received her new hearing aid, her riding was changed as well. One of the biggest changes was the wind reduction program on her Phonak Audeo B hearing aid. Previously, the wind made it difficult for Rayna to hear her trainer. The wind reduction program makes a big difference when she is listening to directions, allowing Rayna to hear her trainer

Read more: My experience with Phonak Audéo B-R hearing aids

Together, Rayna and her trainer have found the best way for them to communicate. Her trainer tells Rayna the instructions before she begins riding. Rayna has to memorize them and repeat them back before starting her ride. Her hearing aid has been a huge help with this process.

Rayna’s dedication to her passion shows how she will not let anything stand in her way. She keeps a positive attitude and focuses on doing what she loves. According to her mom, she says she loves riding because “when she jumps she feels like she is flying and the bond she has with her pony is one that can’t be explained in words.”

What other sports do your hearing aids help you with when you play? Let us know in the comments.

Kirsten Brackett
Kirsten is the managing editor of Hearing Like Me. She has a moderate hearing loss and currently wears Phonak Audéo B-R rechargeable hearing aids.

Outside of working for Hearing Like Me, she can be found exploring new cities, trying out new recipes in her kitchen, or hiking. She loves learning about different cultures and languages.

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