Hearing : Technology Helping Kids with Hearing Loss

Chase Cook

Sadie Jeffcoat sits at a table with princess-themed tea pots and party favors. Her right ear is trained at Cochlear America's senior manager George Cire as he asks her and other girls at the table questions.

If this was before 2010,Jeffcoat, 7, wouldn't be able to hear him talk due to a severed auditory nerve after surgery was done in 2009 to remove a brain tumor. Now, she has a bone anchored hearing aid (Baha) which lets her hear sounds in her right ear.

The Scholl Center for Communication Disorders, 4415 S. Harvard Ave., put together a princess-themed tea party to bring together young girls like Sadie who use Bahas and were born with or have developed hearing problems.

The center's owner and audiologist Jacque Scholl said she likes to put special events together to help the children adapt and meet other kids with similar problems.

"Sometimes you have to think outside of the box," Scholl said. "It doesn't get better than princesses, kings and tea parties."

Tuesday's event was to bring together children who use Baha implants or softbands or may be thinking about getting the implant, Scholl said.

The Baha detects sounds and creates vibrations that are picked up by the bones in the ear and are eventually translated as sound by the brain, Cire said.

The implant directly transfers the vibrations to the bone, but the softband sends the vibrations through the skin so it has to work a little harder and its sound is dampened more than the implant, Cire said.

Cire works out of Denver but came to Tulsa to attend the tea party and to help the Scholl Center with training. He said he typically works with professionals like Scholl but doesn't always see the people using his products.

"It's really gratifying to see the impact," Cire said. "It's a special privilege."

Another benefit of the tea party is that it helps develop a support network for the girls and families, Cire said. It's important for the girls to see others who have the same condition as themselves, he said.

Sadie's mother, Ashley Jeffcoat, said she didn't have that network when she was dealing with Sadie's brain tumor and subsequent hearing loss. Sadie also lost the ability to walk, has trouble with balance and still has tremors in her right hand since the 2009 surgery.

She had enough determination that a month after the surgery and extensive physical therapy, she was running to her Christmas presents Jeffcoat said. But no amount of determination could fix her hearing loss in her right ear.

One of the troubles was "hearing my teacher," Sadie said.

Children who can only hear out of one ear have a 30 percent to 50 percent chance of repeating early grades, Scholl said.

The learning changes from less tactile uses of the hand to more auditory commands from the teacher, Cire said.

Now, Sadie said she can hear her teacher and is happy she was able to meet other girls like her.

"It feels good," she said.

Chase Cook 918-581-8386 chase.cook@tulsaworld.com

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