William Gonzalez, a junior at Aldine High School, will no longer have to strain to hear his teachers thanks to a new set of hearing aids donated by the MicroSeismic oilfield services company as part of a partnership with UT Physicians. “Everything sounds better now,” said Lisbet Mendez, who immigrated to the United States from Cuba with her 16-year-old son William in 2016. “He can hear the low sounds and he can hear his mother’s voice perfectly.”
To date, about 50 children have benefited from the Gift of Hearing program.
“In 2014, MicroSeismic came to us with a wonderful opportunity to help the children in our health system with hearing loss,” said Soham Roy, M.D., director of pediatric otolaryngology at McGovern Medical School at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth).
According to the National Institutes of Health, about two to three of every 1,000 children in the U.S. are born with a detectable level of hearing loss in one or both ears. This can contribute to poor grades, slurred speech and isolation.
Mendez believes her son’s hearing loss is linked to his treatment for eye cancer back in Havana. “He’s always had the music loud,” she said.
Diagnosed with significant high-frequency sensorineural hearing loss in January, Gonzalez’s teachers were complaining that he was not paying attention. “He couldn’t hear what was going on in class. But despite that, he was getting good grades at school,” Mendez said.
Gonzalez, a member of the swim team at Aldine High School, plans to study informatics and electronics in college. “He’s so smart. This was holding him back,” Mendez said.
Many children are diagnosed with hearing loss at a young age, and the appropriate treatment is often a hearing aid, Roy said. Unfortunately, many health insurers do not provide coverage for hearing aids, leaving these children without the opportunity to develop normal hearing, speech and language if the family cannot afford hearing aids.
“MicroSeismic’s Gift of Hearing program allowed us to provide hearing aids to those children whose families otherwise couldn’t afford it. The importance of MicroSeismic’s donation for these children can’t be overstated,” said Roy.
Hearing aid technology has increased dramatically in recent years, according to M. Mackenzie Hill, Au.D., an audiologist with UT Physicians Otorhinolaryngology – Texas Medical Center. “Today’s hearing aids are smaller and can fit a wider range of hearing losses. They can also be synchronized with smartphones. In addition, you can use a smartphone to adjust the audio levels on these hearing aids. For example in school, you could put the smartphone on the teacher’s desk and have the sound transmitted back to your hearing aids,” Hill said.
“With the tremendous growth in our department over these past few years, the program will no doubt have a greater impact and give hearing-impaired children and their families with the necessary means to connect with the world around them,” Hill said. “On behalf of these children and families, as well as our audiology team, we offer our greatest appreciation to those at MicroSeismic for their kind and generous heart!”
Parents who are concerned that their child may have a hearing loss can schedule a hearing test by calling 713-486-5000, or can schedule an appointment online.
Written by Rob Cahill (UTHealth).
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