Cover Kid Julia Pershica was born with Moebius Syndrome, a rare neurological disorder that is present at birth. Moebius Syndrome affects certain cranial nerves, leaving those with the condition unable to move their faces (they can’t smile, frown, suck, grimace or blink their eyes) and often unable to move their eyes laterally. Symptoms include a lack of facial expression, the inability to smile, eye sensitivity, hearing impairment and articulation and speech disorders. “Julia failed her hearing tests when she was born,” explains her father Joshua Pershica. “Her doctor at the Hough Ear Institute referred us to Hearts for Hearing when she was only six months old and it has been an amazing experience for our family.”
Hearts for Hearing (HFH) is a non-profit organization established in 2003 to provide funding for the initial set of hearing aids for children in Oklahoma who are deaf or hard of hearing so that they can learn to listen and talk. Since then, Hearts for Hearing expanded its mission to become a provider of comprehensive hearing health care for children in Oklahoma.
“We believe that the cost of hearing aids should not limit a child from access to excellent listening and spoken language outcomes,” explains Kris Hopper, HFH’s Development Director. “Hearts for Hearing provides the first set of hearing aids to all newly diagnosed infants and children in Oklahoma under the age of five at no cost to the family.” When infants are diagnosed with a hearing loss and referred to HFH, family counseling begins almost immediately, and infants as young as a few weeks old may be fitted for their first set of state-of-the-art hearing aids, often within a few days.
“HFH provided both hearing aids and speech therapy for Julia,” explains her grandmother Renee Pershica. “She also attended their Listening for Littles Preschool when she was 2 years old and has attended their summer camp every year. I just can’t explain how important it has been in her development.”
“She has to form her words and sounds differently,” Joshua explains. “HFH worked with her and got her on track. Ninety percent of people that speak to her now have no idea that she has hearing loss or speech problems.”
Julia, who is now seven years old, is in the gifted program going into second grade. “Even with her dramatic hearing loss, she can perform in a regular classroom setting,” he adds. “I credit that to all the hours of work that HFH has dedicated to her as she has grown up.”
Services offered by HFH include comprehensive diagnosis, funding for initial hearing aids, comprehensive audiological and speech language testing, audio verbal therapy and speech language testing, family education workshops and summer day camps.
For more information, visit www.heartsforhearing.org.