It seems every day is some sort of "national" day. National Hot Dog Day, National Dog Day, National Siblings Day, however my cause and passion is so important, there is an entire month dedicated to it.
The Month of May is Better Hearing & Speech Month, also hashtagged, #BHSM. This is a time to raise awareness for hearing and communication disorders such as hearing loss, tinnitus and speech delays. SIMPLY PUT: It is important to take care of your hearing and to have access to sound and speech.
I want to take a moment to reflect on how Songs for Sound, a charity, became a big thing in this industry, reflect and celebrate our work and accomplishments in outreach, but also give some insights to why this month is so important, how we help; WHY WE HELP PEOPLE HEAR.
It was March 2009 here in Nashville and I had no idea my entire life was about to completely change. I woke up and got my family ready, thinking today was a checklist kind of day like every other. You know, mothers live and breathe by the checklist. This day was pretty much like the rest, except it included one pretty important item: an overdue hearing test for my daughter, Lexi.
The days leading up to the “hearing test day” were a little messy, sadly. Lexi wasn’t given a newborn hearing screening, she was tested at 10 weeks and failed, however we were told it was due to her being “fussy” and to follow up in 6-9 months.
As we pulled into Vanderbilt Bill Wilkerson Center on that March 2009 Spring day, there were certainly concerns of hearing loss, however there was no way I could have prepared for the news I was about to hear.
A month prior, I had been told her issues were likely nothing. I had been told by a local pediatrician that while she may not be trying to say first words, some kids “don’t talk until they’re 18 months of age.”
I did my best to confirm those suggestions by using the internet. Don’t get me wrong, you can get a lot of good information off of quality websites from quality organizations who have an outstanding reputation. However, I had no experience in hearing loss. I didn’t know what sites were reputable or good.
So like anyone, I grabbed the information that made me feel good. I grabbed onto statistics like “1 in 1000 are deaf, 3 in 1000 have some loss”. I grabbed onto information like “she could have fluid that causes hearing loss.” I heard what I wanted to hear.
Next came the life-defining moment for Lexi, for me, for our family. Kevin and I were now sitting on the 9th floor of VBWC with Dr. Cathi Hayes. As she tested Lexi, there was no response. (“She must be giving her soft sounds,” I thought.)
“Beep, Beep, BEEEEEP!” No response.
Before I knew it, the chair turned and Lexi was gently handed to us. Dr. Cathi transformed our lives, and Lexi’s, with a few compassionate and caring words. (I’m so sorry to tell you this, however) “Lexi is in fact deaf.”
I remember the picture in my mind from that day. A black and white sketch of a school off in the distance. No playground, no leaves on the trees. I thought Lexi would have to be shipped off to a school far away from us and isolated from her friends and family.
But that day we learned of cochlear implants and speech therapy for the deaf. We enrolled her into Vanderbilt's Mama Lere Hearing School, followed Auditory Verbal Therapy to a “t” and Lexi rolled onto victory like she does now in everything she tries. After being implanted bilaterally with Cochlear devices at 18 months, activated at 19 months, she began the journey to HEAR and USE SPOKEN LANGUAGE. She attended weekly speech appointments, audiology appointments and soon made up two years of speech in her first year, doubling the rate of progress. Why? BECAUSE SHE GAINED ACCESS TO HEARING!
Lexi comes from a family with no hearing loss and she had a normal birth. She had one ear infection and one round of antibiotics. As far as we know, she was the GAP in hearing healthcare that happens everyday.
That is the day the fire was ignited in me to change the way Americans are considered or remembered when it comes to their hearing. Nine years ago, we started the process to form a charity, Songs for Sound, which now serves the entire United States and beyond.
We have five programs: The Hear the Music Project - a nationwide hearing health tour which provides free hearing screenings, info on hearing technology, audiology and general hearing health prevention. To date we’ve given nearly 22,000+ free hearing screenings and generated over 200 million awareness impressions. We also have an annual Hear the Music Camp for families with hearing loss children. No cost, no worries, just a weekend of bonding and spending time with other families alike. We have an international mission project we’ve been building in Montego Bay, Jamaica where unemployment is high and hearing healthcare systems are non-existent. We won’t multiply this model until it is really, really good, working and sustainable. The most intriguing & fastest growing program is the Sound for Soldiers program serving military and veterans. So many Veterans struggle to navigate the VA or don’t have VA benefits. We help with free services and support. Lastly, we are launching our first proof of concept chapter (more info soon!)
Currently, our Hear the Music Project is serving Nashville and Tennessee. We've covered 27 states, but we will not stop, ever. Our outreach is something that perfectly represents May as Better Hearing & Speech Month. We want everyone to know about hearing health solutions (AWARENESS). We want everyone to have ACCESS to hearing solutions, Audiology appointments, the best hearing products coming OTC soon. We want everyone to be able to use spoken language if that is their choice. Finally, we want everyone to HEAR and take ACTION so their lives are fulfilling.
What moves us to hear isn't someone giving a hearing test. That's just the beginning of a relationship with Songs for Sound. What moves them to hear is the sounds they are missing. The connections with others they are missing. The emotions they are missing.
Our movement is based on a simple notion: IMAGINE YOUR LIFE WITHOUT THE GIFT OF HEARING MUSIC. A set of lyrics that help you heal when you lose a loved one. A song that allows you to endure that breakup. Your wedding song. Your break up song. Your graduation song. Your 'I just beat cancer' song.
Where is Lexi now? How did her life turn out because of her journey from deafness to SOUND? She is pitching for a nationally ranked softball team, the Birmingham Thunderbolts 07, and only 11 years old. She is an honor roll student. She is on the dance team, plays basketball and swims. Her speech is clear and she is HAPPY. She loves to hear. She loves to write. She loves to talk to her friends. She loves to HEAR MUSIC.
So, for this month, would you please share our Facebook page, our SongsForSound.com website and all the photos and stats we post?
For this month, JOIN US and help the 360+ MILLION people living with a disabling hearing loss worldwide to HEAR THE MUSIC.