Local boy to walk to raise awareness of hearing loss
By Shavonne Potts
SALISBURY - Each year at the beginning of school, Jonathan Mosher gets a lot of questions and he gladly answers them all.
Mosher, 10, is regularly asked what those "things" are on his ears.
"I say, 'These are called cochlear implants. It helps me hear so I can hear you guys better and I can talk to you better,' " he said.
The North Hills Christian School fourth-grader has for years gladly educated his fellow classmates and anyone who asks about his implants.
His mother, Patrice, and grandfather, Lewis Baucom, will join him in the Walk 4 Hearing event Saturday in Clemmons. The Walk 4 Hearing is an annual fundraiser through the North Carolina chapter of the Hearing Loss Association of America that seeks to bring awareness to hearing loss.
Patrice discovered her son had severe/profound hearing loss after newborn hearing tests. He was officially diagnosed at 12 months with Connexin-26, which is an autosomal recessive genetic disorder that causes hearing loss.
It is one of the most common forms of non-syndromic (not part of a syndrome) hearing loss.
The disorder is expressed when both parents are carriers for the genetic mutation and both of Jonathan's parents had the recessive gene.
Jonathan received his first set of hearing aids at 9 weeks old and also at that time began auditory verbal therapy.
He received his first Med-El cochlear implant when he was a 1-year-old in his left ear. When he turned 5, Jonathan received his second cochlear implant, this time in his right ear.
The cochlear implant bypasses the non-working part of the inner ear and directly stimulates the auditory nerve, delivering sound.
He wears an external processor behind the ears, which transmits the signal to an internal device beneath the skin.
Mosher said she had to advocate and struggled with the insurance company for the second implant. The company finally relented.
Mosher has been a speech pathologist for 18 years. She didn't know it at the time, but she feels it was God's plan to embark on this career path.
She began early in her career working with hearing impaired students at the N.C. School for the Deaf in Morganton.
Mosher currently works as a speech pathologist at Woodleaf and Cleveland elementary schools.
Having a son who is hearing impaired changed the way Mosher handled therapy sessions.
She understands the journey they have ahead of them.
Jonathan received early intervention services in his home until he was 3. He attended an auditory/oral preschool program in Cabarrus County, beginning when he was 3 until he turned 5.
While at the Cabarrus school, Jonathan worked with a teacher of the deaf, a speech pathologist and a language facilitator.
He graduated from speech a year and a half ago.
He wears the outer transmitter at all times, except in the shower or pool and at night.
Jonathan doesn't let having cochlear implants hinder him from being active.
He enjoys recreational sports including flag football, basketball and soccer.
Other parents have questioned Mosher's decision to let her son participate in contact sports.
"I could leave him in a box and break his spirit or take a calculated risk and give him some freedom," she said.
The family explains to coaches and teammates about his cochlear implants.
Jonathan is the only hearing impaired student at his school and church, but the family sees it as a welcomed opportunity to educate.
"Sometimes it's a teachable moment," Mosher said.
She encourages parents of a hearing impaired child to be aggressive and proactive with amplification and intervention.
Mosher also would tell others not to feel sorry for children who are hearing impaired and don't assume they communicate through sign language.
An estimated 1.6 million North Carolinians have some form of hearing loss, as do an estimated 36 million in the United States, according to the Hearing Loss Association of North Carolina.
Mosher didn't want her son to rely on lip reading.
"I wanted him to be able to trust his hearing and not have to compensate for it with his vision," she said.
For instance, if Jonathan were in class and the teacher turned her back to write on the board, he would have a hard time understanding what the teacher was saying.
The family includes oldest son, Stephan, 13, and they are able to interact through support groups, with other hearing impaired children, their siblings and parents. Stephan isn't hearing impaired, but Mosher said it was important for him to have support as well.
The family is a member of Concord support group called Hearing Impaired Toddlers and Children Have Unlimited Potential (HITCH-UP).
"If I could go back 10 years, I would love to have seen where he is today. The combination of an early diagnosis, early amplification, and early intervention has made a huge impact on my son's life. As a speech-language pathologist and as a mom, I respect everyone's right to choose the path that is right for his or her family. The path we have chosen is working for us."
Walk set for Saturday
The walk in Clemmons is the largest of its kind in the country. The money raised through the fundraiser helps people with hearing loss pay for hearing aids and other devices, outreach and education programs. It also provides scholarships for college students with hearing loss.
Walk organizer, Dr. Adele Evans of Brenner Children's Hospital, said the goal is $50,000.
"We are really focused on achieving that, as this walk is so young and we are aiming to establish some solid college scholarships," Evans said.
Evans is a pediatric otolaryngologist, who specializes in disorders of the ear, nose and throat at the Winston-Salem hospital.
This is just the second year for the walk and the first time with Evans at the helm.
She hopes the walk will also bring newly diagnosed families together with experienced families, and with adults who have hearing loss.
Her desire is that these families could serve as the voice to state legislatures, insurance companies, hospitals and school systems.
For more information about the walk, visit www.walk4hearing.org.
For more information about hearing loss, visit www.ncbegin.org