Sound Beginnings Summer Camp for Children with Hearing Loss at Utah LEND

June 17, 2009

Margo Liechty, 5, listens to sounds played on a recorder by volunteer Liz Wilson in a class at the Listening in Cache Valley Sound Beginnings summer camp at Edith Bowen Laboratory School at Utah State University. (Alan Murray/Herald Journal)
Margo Liechty, 5, listens to sounds played on a recorder by volunteer Liz Wilson in a class at the Listening in Cache Valley Sound Beginnings summer camp at Edith Bowen Laboratory School at Utah State University. (Alan Murray/Herald Journal)

Sounds high-tech

By Devin Felix, Herald Journal

About 35 kids gathered with their parents at Utah State University this week for the Sound Beginnings Summer Camp, a program designed for children with hearing loss and their families.

The program is geared specifically toward families who choose to address their children's hearing loss through technology and tactics to help their children hear and talk, said Todd Houston, an assistant professor of speech-language pathology at USU. The camp concludes today.

About 14 of the kids attending have hearing loss, and the rest are their siblings, Houston said. They were split into age groups yesterday and participated in activities throughout the day, including music activities, relay races and other games. The groups were guided by volunteers, many of whom are graduate students in audiology or speech-language pathology at USU.

While kids were involved in activities Thursday, parents attended seminars for information on gauging their children's development, laws governing early intervention and special education and hearing technology. On Thursday night, everyone went horseback riding, Houston said.

"We wouldn't have missed it," said Nancy Guthrie, whose 9-month-old son, Alex, has severe hearing loss. "As a parent, I want to learn what the current research is for kids that are deaf or hard of hearing."

Guthrie, who traveled to Logan from Provo, said she and her family found out about Alex's hearing problem thanks to a hearing test given to all newborns.

"When you first find out the diagnosis, you go home and sob, but then you find out this whole world that's available," she said.

That world includes high-tech hearing aids and cochlear implants, which "allow a person to hear through an electrical stimulation," Houston said.

Alex has worn hearing aids since he was 3 months old, and is scheduled to undergo surgery to get cochlear implants in September, Guthrie said.

Cochlear implants consist of a microphone worn on the outside of the ear that converts sound to electrical impulses, which are transmitted through an electrode array into the cochlea - the portion of the ear that converts sound impulses into electrical impulses and transmits them to the brain. The electrical impulses from the device simulate the impulses a normally functioning cochlea creates, Houston said.

Alex is scheduled to undergo implantation surgery in September, Guthrie said.

Cochlear implants have been at the center of controversy since they were created. Houston emphasized that the camp and the Sound Beginnings program are designed to let families of children with hearing loss know some of the options available to them. Each family must decide for themselves what route to take with their children, he said.

Families from as far away as Cedar City traveled to Logan for the camp, Houston said.

The camp is a good chance for the children to meet other children with hearing loss, hearing aids or implants, said Katie Gardner, a Logan mother who attended the camp with her 5-year-old daughter, Carolyn-Kate. Most of those who attended the camp are the only ones in their families and their neighborhoods with hearing loss, Gardner said.

The camp was run as part of Sound Beginnings, a USU early intervention program that includes a preschool for children with hearing loss.

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