Sonya first came to the Texas Hearing Institute when she was 3 years old to attend the Melinda Webb School. Two years later, her mom asked Sonya if she wanted to stay or if she was ready to go to school with kids who can hear. Sonya didn’t have to think twice about it. She was ready.
"Sonya had five surgeries before successfully receiving her cochlear implant at age 12. Adjusting to life with a cochlear implant is hard when you’re older, but Dr. Jennifer Wickesberg-Summers and Michael Douglas in the Audiology Department and Speech Therapy Services were there for Sonya every step of the way. She was that kid who didn’t want to be there but was always happy to see them. They were Sonya's role models and changed her life forever.
Today, her passion has become a full-time job. She is the founder of Avian, a real-estate photography business. She has also found herself back at Texas Hearing Institute. She photographed key events like the annual gala and the groundbreaking ceremony for the new campus. Sonya came full circle!"
Logan was diagnosed at birth with CHARGE syndrome — a genetic condition that impacts vision, hearing, breathing, swallowing, eating, drinking, and digestion, as well as the senses that perceive balance, touch, temperature, pain, pressure, and smell. Arriving nine weeks early, Logan spent her first four months in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), where she underwent five surgeries.
As Lauren and her husband, Parker, waited for their daughter to grow strong enough to undergo those surgeries, a CT scan revealed that, in addition to her other medical challenges, it was likely Logan would never be able to hear. However, a doctor’s second opinion referred them to Texas Hearing Institute. Within two weeks, Logan was fitted with bilateral hearing aids and underwent cochlear implant surgery. One month past surgery, the Institute’s audiology team activated Logan’s cochlear implants. Lauren will never forget this special moment.
“Logan was slow to respond at first and seemed very cautious,” she says. “But her eyes would widen, and she would look for me or for someone in the room. Within a week she was turning to look for different sounds.”
The birth of a child is one of the miracles of life that brings joy to parents and families. After Elizabeth's birth, her parents were overjoyed but remained in shock, denial, and unsure of their daughter’s future after she failed the newborn hearing screening.
"Thankfully, Early Childhood Intervention (ECI) recommended we go to Texas Hearing Institute," said Kelly Tobey, Elizabeth's mom. "I wanted Elizabeth to grow and have the ability to communicate with anyone she wanted at any time. I didn't want my daughter to be left out of anything. The Center for Hearing and Speech made my dream a reality."
"Because Elizabeth had hearing aids and she communicated fairly well, we enrolled her directly into a mainstream classroom. We wanted her to feel integrated and not different from other children," said Kelly Tobey.
Even so, Elizabeth felt like she was the only child in the world with hearing loss in her school. She realized she was not alone after attending events for Buddies at Texas Hearing. Her peers at Buddies at Texas Hearing inspired her and motivated her to dream big and do whatever she wants!
Due to early intervention and receiving hearing aids at just 7 weeks old on both her ears, Elizabeth's childhood has been quite normal. At 4 years old, she competed in gymnastics and is the current secretary of the National Elementary Honor Society (NEHS) chapter at her school.
Elizabeth is a loving sibling to her older sister, Abigail, and younger brother, Ethan. She's smart, creative, and a hard worker. She doesn't let her moderate hearing loss stop her from following her dreams. She enjoys cooking and even has plans to audition for a cooking show. When she grows up, she wants to be a marine biologist and own a ranch. Go, Elizabeth!"
So many families have been blessed by generous hearing aid donations to Texas Hearing Institute through our Sound Futures program. Used or unwanted hearing aids (or cochlear implants) in any condition are gratefully accepted as donations.
Some of the donated hearing aids can be refurbished and Texas Hearing Institute earns credit toward purchasing new technology. Others are employed as teaching tools, either in demonstrations for parents and professionals, or in presentations to the public.
One of the most rewarding things about this program is how often we hear from our families about the impact this program has had on their family. Here's just one example of many from our client, Torres, whose life has been changed forever by receiving a hearing aid donation.
"Dear THI Staff:
We are truly grateful for the support we have received from you. Torres is, of course, our main priority and your impact has been immeasurable. We also appreciate God for placing people like you in our path. You have made a lasting impression in our family's lives forever. Thank you!"
For most parents, preschool graduation marks the first key academic milestone. The parents of children with hearing loss are no exception. Alongside their families and CHS staff, each of these children have worked tirelessly to learn listening, speaking, and literacy skills. With great joy, CHS honored seven children last summer in a very special graduation ceremony. It was with bittersweet pride that the CHS staff helped ensure these youthful warriors transition successfully as they join their traditional kindergarten classrooms.
Take a look at Chrissette (one of our recent graduates), who has moved onto her kindergarten class at KIPP academy. She's also a part of the Journeys Program with the Melinda Webb School (MWS), which has a curriculum designed to bridge the gap between school environments. Chrisette recently came back to talk to her school friends at MWS about her experiences in her new mainstream school. Not surprisingly, the questions they had for her were about making new friends. Chrisette very gladly counted and named her nine new friends. Congratulations to Chrisette and her family on a successful transition to KIPP.
Watch the video below to learn more about Chrisette's story
At just 9 months, Charlie (who is profoundly deaf in both ears) is one of the youngest CHS clients ever to receive bilateral cochlear implants. Although the FDA has only approved implants for children as young as 1 year old, some insurance companies will approve implants on a case-by-case basis. Studies continue to show that implants at a younger age result in stronger and faster achievement of spoken language for children with hearing loss.
Charlie was identified with hearing loss at infancy. Shortly after his diagnosis, his family relocated to Houston and came to the center to receive ideal access to medical services. By 3 months old, Charlie was fitted with hearing aids and immediately started speech sessions. His audiologist and speech-language pathologist quickly observed that Charlie was still not responding to sound. They jointly recommended that he receive cochlear implants as soon as possible.
Charlie's parents immediately began to petition their insurance company for approval to receive the implant surgery prior to the age of 1. At just 9 months old, Charlie was approved and received his implants.
Prior to his implant surgery, Charlie could only hear loud sounds, such as banging on a metal trashcan or someone shouting closely to his ear. He would never have had normal conversations or listen to music. Now, Charlie is already responding to his name, swaying to music, and, like most babies his age, says "Moo" and giggles when he sees a cow. We're sure he's going to be smiling from ear to ear as he hears his family sing Happy Birthday when they celebrate his first birthday!
Charlie's mom says, "I can't imagine if he was just now receiving his surgery. He has already made so much progress. Working with the center has taken away so much anxiety for my husband and me and given us hope to know that he has every opportunity. There's no doubt in my mind that a huge part of Charlie's success is due to the center's dedication. It is so nice to be able to rely on experts through this process."
Charlie, his parents, and CHS staff have hard work ahead of them in order for Charlie to reach his full potential. With the incredible results so far, Charlie and his community of supporters continue toward his future in a world of sound.
Grace failed her newborn hearing screening at the hospital after birth and was diagnosed with bilateral, severe to profound hearing loss after having a diagnostic ABR at 2 weeks of age. Grace was fitted with hearing aids at 2 months of age. After almost a year of wearing hearing aids, Grace was unable to detect normal-level sounds. At the age of 12 months, Grace received her first cochlear implant on the right ear; and at the age of 15 months, her left ear was implanted.
Grace’s parents, Jodi and Daniel, are both congenitally hearing impaired and cochlear implant recipients. Though they had experience with hearing loss, they were confused, overwhelmed, and devastated by the diagnosis. Like other parents, they felt guilty that they may have caused their daughter’s hearing loss, and they later discovered that they both share the same mutation in the connexin 26 gene. Connexin 26 is known as the most common genetic cause of hearing loss. Lucky for Grace, her parents knew exactly where to turn for help. Grace’s father, Daniel – along with his brother and sister – are all CHS alumni.
Although discouraged with the diagnosis and the cause for their daughter's hearing loss, they firmly believe that Grace’s early intervention is their “trump” card, and they should run with it. So they returned to CHS and the Audiology and Speech teams began immediate work with Grace, and they enrolled her in the Melinda Webb School full-time.
Jodi said of CHS, "Words cannot describe how CHS made a difference in our lives. The staff have given us so much love and support. As parents, we have gained confidence, strength, and greater knowledge to assist Grace in her everlasting need for comprehensive speech and language. The Center for Hearing and Speech really opened the doors for Grace’s future. Thankfully, CHS is a true lifesaver for our family. The professionals at CHS are our greatest advocates. They did a fantastic job of educating us and making sure that Grace received all of the services that she needed, including early intervention. They truly got us started on the right path, and we are beyond grateful for Grace’s happiness. Her future is so bright because of this miraculous technology and the community of experts at CHS."
And what does she have to say about Grace? "We call Grace our 'Amazing Grace' because every day, we are amazed and elated by her remarkable progress. Grace’s speech and language has improved at an incredible rate since her first cochlear implant activation. Grace has been able to thrive in everything she does. We are forever grateful for her speech therapist, audiologist, and teachers. Grace is an intelligent and strong-willed little girl who loves to talk! She is just so full of life. Grace loves to name all animals she sees. She loves to read, play, dance … and sing! We forget that Grace has hearing loss when she is wearing her cochlear implant speech processors. She has by far surpassed any expectations we would have had of her if she was born hearing. Grace continues to make great progress with her cochlear implants, and we never have been more proud of our little girl! The Center for Hearing and Speech has given us the belief that our Amazing Grace will fulfill the hopes and dreams we had for her when she was born, and for that we are eternally grateful!"
We think Grace, and her family, are pretty amazing, too!
Marcos was hard of hearing for most of his life. Unfortunately, his financial situation prevented him from receiving the proper medical care to be fitted with a hearing aid. After moving to Houston with his two brothers, Marcos found Texas Hearing Institute.
Marcos was fitted with two hearing aids through Sound Futures, a program that provides free hearing aids, as well as audiological services, including evaluations, fitting, and maintenance instructions for hearing devices. Marcos is currently on track to graduate high school this spring.
Thanks to our audiology experts, the staff at Liberty High School, and the many professionals at Baylor College of Medicine’s ENT Department, Marcos is able to better communicate with his family and peers and has gained the courage to further his academic career. Marcos is grateful for the unconditional support and courage Texas Hearing Institute has given him throughout this entire process.
Nia was diagnosed with severe to profound hearing loss at the age of 2. After diagnosis, she enrolled with the Melinda Webb School at Texas Hearing Institute, where she received specialized instruction for children who are deaf and hard of hearing. Nia learned to build her communication skills by speaking clearly and practicing sounds that often gave her trouble. She also utilized her hearing aids to the best of her ability by not relying on reading lips to communicate with others.
Today, Nia is a rising sophomore at Houston Baptist University and majors in cybersecurity engineering. She has earned the top merit academic scholarship to cover her tuition fees. Nia credits the dedicated staff at Texas Hearing Institute for playing a major role in her journey to reaching her dreams.