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Local woman brings awareness to hearing loss

By Staff
Melissa Cason
One local parent is working to bring awareness to the needs of special needs children and adults as she is participating in the Walk4hearing fundraiser hosted by the Hearing League Association of America.
Michelle Murray is working to bring awareness to the needs of individuals with speech and hearing problems as part of Better Speech and Hearing Month.
For over 75 years, May has been designated as Better Hearing and Speech Month. This month provides an opportunity to educate and inform others about the importance of good hearing, the social and emotional implications of hearing loss, and the available solutions for those who suffer from hearing loss.
According to HLAA, hearing loss is one of the most unaddressed health conditions in America today, but it affects more than 31 million Americans.
Murray's seven-year-old son, Blaise is one of them.
"Blaise was diagnosed as profoundly deaf at the age of six months," Murray said. "But that was just the beginning."
Blaise's journey to hearing began with hearing aids, but Murray said they didn't really help him very much.
"We started out with an ENT in Huntsville, but we decided to go to Children's in Birmingham," Murray said. "They started out with super hearing aids. Again they did not really help."
Murray said while the doctor's were working with him and trying to get him to hear with a hearing aid, they were going through the candidacy process for Cochlear implants.
"We had to go through a lot to even see if Blaise qualified for the implants including counseling for us to make sure we'd do the work," Murray said.
Blaise received his first implant at 16 months old.
"Once he got the implants, the real work began," she said. "We had to do the therapy that went along with the implants."
That therapy is called Auditory Verbal Therapy.
"We went once per week for one hour, and we had to commit to doing one hour per day at home," Murray said. "Thank God he blessed Blaise with a mother who liked to talk."
Murray said she talked to him about everything so he would understand what was going on.
"We'd have talks about the simplest things like why I'm pushing him in a buggy at the grocery store," Murray said. "Sometimes people would just look at me like I'm nuts because we had to talk about everything because it was new to him."
While his first implant was implanted at 16 months, a few years went by before the second implant was inserted.
"Blue Cross did not want to pay for Cochlear implants," she said. "It was a fight for all Blue Cross patients who needed Cochlear. They did not want to cover it."
Murray said other patients sued the insurer, and they were set to testify in Montgomery.
"We never took the stand in that case," Murray said. "Blue Cross settled out of court and decided to cover Cochlear."
In 2003, Blaise received his second implant, and the work for understanding continued in the Murray home.
After a while, Blaise began seeing an AVT therapist in Huntsville.
Today, Blaise is an active seven-year-old with friends and his own identity. But, most importantly, he can hear.
"Without his implants on, he cannot hear anything," Murray said. "But, with them, he can hear."
Murray said a common misconception is that cochlear implants are hearing aids, but they are not. Hearing aids amplify sound. If there is no sound there to begin with, it cannot be amplified.
While Blaise is doing well with his 'special ears', there are some limitations.
"He will never play football, and he can't wear them on the playground or when swimming," Murray said. "So it can be a little tough."
Blaise said it's a little difficult on the playground because he can't hear.
"It's hard sometimes because when my friends ask me something on the playground, I can't hear them," Blaise said.
Murray said she is blessed that there was a way to help her son, and to give back, she is participating in the Walk 4 Hearing on May 16.
"So far, I've raised $290, and we have two weeks to go," she said. "Now, that Blaise is doing well, it's my time to give back."
For more information on Cochlear, visit www.cochlear.com. For more information on the Walk 4 Hearing, visit walk4hearing.org.

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