Celebrating Your Birthday in September? Learn How You Can Help HHF!

By Lauren McGrath

Sharing birthday presents is a popular custom. Most Americans report positive emotions when giving gifts. 83 and 78 percent of people feel joyful and generous, respectively, when sharing a present with a loved one, Pew Research finds. 

The receiving side of the gift-giving process is much different. The question, "What do you want for your birthday?" often triggers a mental blank, especially when multiple friends or family members inquire simultaneously. To think of one tangible item on the spot can be difficult.

More people in America were born in September than in any other month, according to a study shared in Reader's Digest from the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics, so it follows that this is the most popular birthday gift-giving time of the year, too.

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Should you fall among the millions of Americans celebrating a birthday during this ninth month of 2017, Hearing Health Foundation (HHF) has a suggestion for you. Did you know that you can dedicate your birthday to a nonprofit organization of your choice on Facebook, inviting your friends to give directly to the cause?

A new feature on Facebook prompts users two weeks before their birthday to select a nonprofit organization's page. The individual whose birthday is approaching can set a goal amount and enter a custom message. Friends will see the public post, which expires at midnight on the user's actual birthday.

HHF relies on the generosity of individuals to propel forward its critical hearing and balance research, awareness efforts, and advocacy work. If you are a September-born HHF supporter who considers our work personally valuable, please consider creating a fundraiser of any size. Every dollar makes a difference.

Help your friends contribute to HHF through the following steps:

1. Once logged into Facebook, go to the Fundraisers page.

2. Click Raise Money.

3. Click Get Started.

4. Choose Nonprofit.

5. Type or Choose Hearing Health Foundation.

6. Personalize your message and click Create.

Happy birthday! And thank you for considering donating your special day to HHF.

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The Path to Funding for Universal Newborn Hearing Screening

By Pranav Parikh

Due to the complexities of a multi-trillion-dollar federal budget, it can often be difficult to understand where all the money ends up. For recipients of Medicaid and their children, part of the government’s longstanding policy is to provide access to quality healthcare low-income communities could not otherwise afford. Medicaid recipients represent approximately 23 percent of the total U.S. population, with an enrollment of 74,550,529 individuals.

According to President Donald Trump’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 proposed budget, deemed the “America First” budget, and a nonpartisan CBO report, Medicaid will receive cuts totaling $610 billion USD over the next 10 years. In 2015, the U.S. Government spent $545.1 billion USD on Medicaid services. President Trump alludes to waste and redundancies as his justification of the proposed cuts.


One of the planned cuts will negatively impact newborn children and be detrimental to the well-being of infants across the country: Universal Newborn Hearing Screening. The terrifying impact is summarized below.

What exactly is being removed?
In his FY18 proposed budget, President Trump upheld his campaign promise by cutting what he deems “unnecessary and wasteful spending.” Unfortunately, one program that got the axe was the $18 million USD allocated towards newborn hearing screenings. This earmarked funding has doubled the percentage of newborns receiving hearing screenings before leaving the hospital from 46.5% to 97% just in the last decade. Without early detection, children will be at a distinct disadvantage in tackling hearing loss present at birth.

Why does this matter?
Every day, 33 children are born with some form of hearing loss, designating hearing loss as the most common congenital birth defect in the U.S. Reasons babies may have hearing loss present at birth include an inherited trait, ototoxic chemical, or a viral infection during a mother’s pregnancy. Challenges associated with having hearing loss can be overcome through early intervention, however it is imperative treatment and therapy are started as early as possible. As stated on the U.S. Government Department of Health and Human Services website, “If not identified early, [hearing loss] is likely to delay or impair a child’s development. Hearing problems are difficult to detect through observation alone, so almost all newborns have their hearing checked with special equipment.” 

What types of tests are done?
Aside from behavioral characteristics displayed by infants with hearing loss, there are two main tests conducted by physicians to determine any level of auditory impairment. The first of which is called Otoacoustic Emissions, a test designed to the test functionality of outer hair cells. A negative reading on this test is typically associated with cochlear dysfunction. The second test is called Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR) and determines activity of the auditory nerve through stimulation in the baby’s ear. A negative reading on this test indicates some issue with the vestibulocochlear nerve such as auditory neuropathy, but could also indicate problems with other parts of the ear. Both of these tests can be done while the baby is asleep and offer more concrete evidence to either rule out or diagnose infant hearing loss.

Have studies shown early intervention to be more effectual than later in childhood?
Yes, there are many studies that have shown that early intervention, especially for those receiving treatment within the first six months after birth, increases levels of cognitive function and advanced development. The control group of one study, led by Dr. Christine Yoshinaga-Itano at the University of Colorado-Boulder, showed that those who did not receive treatment or therapy within the first six months after birth had greater difficulty with oral communication and language comprehension.

What happens if children have undiagnosed hearing loss?
Hearing loss as a condition can present a number of symptoms associated with other disabilities, leading to improper diagnoses. For example, when children exhibit a lack of response to loud noise, or don't answer when spoken to, they sometimes are misdiagnosed by professionals as being autistic. If hearing loss is present and detected at birth, doctors will have access to necessary information earlier and children will be better off in the long run in developing their communication and learning abilities.

If funding for newborn hearing screening is decreased or removed entirely, what does that mean for those suffering from hearing loss?
At the moment, only 67.1% of those diagnosed with hearing loss receive early intervention before six months of age. With lower early detection and screening rates, this percentage will drop further. Without early intervention programs in place, children are at a noticeable disadvantage in developing hearing and speech functionality. After the age of three, it is considerably more difficult for children to develop the speaking and listening skills that are in line with their typical-hearing peers.

Would early intervention actually save money down the road in potential education costs?Some students with hearing loss utilize special education services, such as CART or note-taking, to ensure they don’t miss any of the materials and learnings while in the classroom. Access to the necessary technology and equipment, as well as highly trained teachers, is an expense incurred by school districts across the country.

A recent report released by the National Center for Hearing Assessment and Management states that treatment of hearing loss in children within the first three months of life can save up to $400,000 USD in eventual special educational costs by the time the hard of hearing student graduates high school. By bridging the gap early, and ensuring better interpersonal and cognitive skills in the first years of age, these children will require much less specialized instruction in future years. Essentially, early detection and intervention pays for itself.

Is there any legislation, not including the President’s proposed budget, that addresses this issue?
In March 2017, the Early Hearing Detection and Intervention (EDHI) Act was introduced on the House floor by Representatives Doris Matsui (D-CA-06) and Brett Guthrie (R-KY-02). A companion measure was also introduced in the Senate by Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Tim Kaine (D-VA). EHDI reauthorizes funding for Universal Newborn Hearing Screening for the next five (5) years, as well as establishes a database hub to collect information on the results of these tests. If the measure passes, parents will be assured of their child’s hearing health, and one of the nation’s largest public health concerns receives the necessary attention it deserves.

Undoubtedly, funding for newborn hearing screening is imperative. Hearing Health Foundation (HHF)'s Pranav Parikh spoke with Congresswoman Matsui’s staff on the reasons for proposing the legislation, and why she took the lead on tackling such an important issue. “So much of a child’s development happens in the first few years of their life, which is why early detection and intervention is so important,” said Matsui. “This bill will ensure that more infants have access to critical hearing screenings, so parents can be informed about the options for their children’s care.” It is comforting to know children suffering with hearing loss have an ally in our nation’s capital.

As Vickie Glenn, a Medicaid Coordinator for Tri-County Special Education recently stated in a New York Times article, “This isn’t Republicans or Democrats. It’s just kids.” Fortunately, President Trump’s proposed budget appears to be a “purely political document,” according to Peter Coy from Bloomberg BusinessWeek, possibly serving as a trial balloon and nothing more. Congress, even with a conservative majority consisting of many fiscal hawks, will likely reject many of the proposed cuts, as Texas Senator and chairman of the Freedom Caucus John Cornyn remarked, “we know the President’s budget isn’t going to be passed as is.” For now, at least, Universal Newborn Hearing Screening will receive its necessary and deserved funding.

And, finally, an urgent call to action from Nadine Deghan, CEO of HHF:
HHF has strongly supported Newborn Hearing Screening. In the 1990s, we championed legislation to encourage these simple but critical tests for our nation’s babies. For those who feel passionately about newborn screening funding, please contact your Congressional Representative and your Senator to let them know your views.




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Our 2016 Annual Report Is Now Available!

By Frankie Huang

Hearing Health Foundation (HHF) is happy to announce that its 2016 annual report is now available. The report is an in-depth review of our activities, events, and achievements for fiscal year 2016. We are very proud of top marks from top charity-rating agencies and even more proud our audited financial statements.

We are fortunate to have such generous supporters who raised funds to further HHF’s mission of prevention, education, and research. Check out our supporters' creative and unique fundraisers; if you feel inspired and would like to organize an event of your own, please contact us at

In 2016, the Hearing Restoration Project (HRP) has made significant strides, bringing us closer to finding a cure for hearing loss and tinnitus. Here are just two of the HRP’s discoveries:

  • Successfully disrupted gene expression in the adult mouse cochlea, including capturing high-quality images—necessary for testing genes in regeneration.

  • Confirmed that the “DTR mouse” is an excellent platform for studying ways to stimulate hair cell regeneration in the mammalian inner ear.

HHF awarded nine Emerging Research Grants (ERGs) to early-career scientists who are pursuing projects in the areas of Central Auditory Processing Disorder (CAPD), Hyperacusis, Ménière's disease, Stria, and Tinnitus. Through ERG, we hope to uncover better treatment options and deeper understanding of these disorders.

Last but certainly not least, we want to express our gratitude and appreciation for our many donors; because of their support, we were able to continue with our important work. To see your name on our next donors’ list, we gladly welcome and appreciate your gift in any amount made by Sept. 30, 2017.

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'Tis the Season to Protect Your Hearing from Noisy Toys

By It's A Noisy Planet

The winter holidays are the time of year for giving and sharing! The holidays provide many opportunities to spend time with family and friends and enjoy some festive cheer. Perhaps you’ll see a local holiday musical or performance or participate in a holiday gift exchange. As you prepare to wrap (or unwrap) those gifts, it’s important to consider if that noisy toy could actually be a hazard. Ever thought about how those concerts and new toys and gadgets might affect your hearing?

The U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) has found toys on store shelves that produce sounds loud enough to contribute to hearing damage over time, including music players and toys that are intended to be held close to the ear. Read the full U.S. PIRG report. During the holidays, make sure to consider the noise levels of toys for children and follow these simple tips to help keep the noise down:

  • Pack hearing protectors, such as earplugs or ear muffs, if you’re attending a local seasonal concert or other festivities. Musical events can register at or above 120 decibels—that’s roughly as loud as an ambulance siren.
  • Did one of your children get a new noisy toy? If the racket is driving you crazy, it may be too loud. Consider putting masking or packing tape over the toy’s speaker. This should muffle the sound enough to make it safe for everyone. Some toys have volume controls to lower the volume or turn off the sound completely.
  • Buy quiet gifts. Look for toys or gadgets with low-volume settings or ones that make no noise at all, such as books or puzzles.
  • Test out toys in the store before buying them to check sound levels. Ask yourself, “Is this too loud?” If so, find another toy with a softer sound. Also ask, “Can I control the volume on the toy and maintain a lower level of noise output?”
  • Limit “screen time” to cut back on noise. Televisions, tablet computers, and video games contribute to high sound levels in the home.
  • Turn on only one toy at a time. Avoid competing noises in the same area. 

From everyone at Hearing Health Foundation and It’s a Noisy Planet. Protect Their Hearing® we wish you a happy holidays and a healthy New Year! 

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We're Partnering With The Mighty!

By Benjamin Sherman

We're thrilled to announce a new partnership that will bring Hearing Health Foundation’s (HHF) resources in front of The Mighty's wide-reaching readership. HHF is excited to share with you our partner page on The Mighty and our logo will appear next to many stories on the site.

For those who don’t know, The Mighty is a story-based health community focused on improving the lives of people facing disease, disorder, mental illness and disability. More than half of Americans are facing serious health conditions or medical issues. They want more than information. They want to be inspired. The Mighty publishes real stories about real people facing real challenges.

HHF is dedicated to helping people with hearing loss, tinnitus, and other hearing conditions live their lives to the fullest. With this partnership, we'll be able to help even more people.

Interested in partnering with Hearing Health Foundation?

Learn more here:

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My Daughter, My Inspiration

By JoAnn Wood, Au.D.

It's been 15 years since my daughter Georgie was born and her hearing loss discovered. At that time, I couldn't picture that she would ever hear me say "I love you,” or that I would ever hear her call me "Mommy.” When I found out that my daughter was deaf I imagined her struggling to learn speech and language, working hard to get good grades and having difficulty making new friends. That's not at all what Georgie's story has been like.

Since I had two sons without hearing loss, my daughter's hearing loss was unexpected. At 1 day old, Georgie failed the Universal Newborn Hearing Screening at the hospital where she was born. Two weeks later additional testing revealed that Georgie had a moderate to severe sensorineural hearing loss in her right ear and a severe to profound loss in the left ear. This was very difficult news for me and my family to hear.

After the diagnosis my husband, who also has hearing loss, and I decided to get her hearing aids right away. At 7 weeks old, Georgie was fit with her first set of digital behind-the-ear hearing aids. She wore them consistently for three years while getting extensive speech and language services and attending special programs at schools for the hearing impaired.

Unfortunately, Georgie's hearing loss progressively got worse. Even with the hearing aids, at 3 years old Georgie’s limited speech and language was far behind that of her peers. She was saying some words but only I could understand her. That made me feel sad, and I could see that it was frustrating for her. Other children her age were talking in complete sentences.

It was then that the cochlear implant became a better option for Georgie. She received an implant in her left ear at age 3 and continued to wear a hearing aid in the right ear. Within three months of implantation, Georgie's speech and language began to take off! People were able to understand her, and she became less frustrated. Georgie began to take dance classes, the start of a lifelong love.

When she was 5, and the Food and Drug Administration approved bilateral cochlear implants for young children, Georgie underwent cochlear implant surgery again, but this time on the right side. It improved her hearing and communication even more. That same year Georgie started kindergarten in the mainstream. By the end of kindergarten, she was disqualified for any speech and language services because she had completely caught up to her peers. 

Universal Newborn Hearing Screening wasn’t an option when my two older sons were born, so I am grateful that when Georgie was born it was required. Her hearing loss was detected immediately.

The experience with Georgie led me to go back to school starting when she was a toddler, to get a bachelor’s, master's, and ultimately a doctorate in audiology. I have had my own practice for the past six years and I am a professor at a local private college. In fact, Georgie comes to my class each semester to talk openly to future speech pathologists and audiologists about her experiences.

Georgie will be starting 10th grade in September and takes all honors classes.  She has received high honors every semester since 6th grade. She is a well-rounded and very social young lady. Georgie's love for dance has taken her to a competitive level, having won several regional awards in many genres of dance such as ballet, lyrical, contemporary, hip-hop, tap, and jazz. 

Looking back I wish I knew then how well Georgie would do and that everything was going to be okay. She has worked hard for all that she has accomplished and I am very proud of her. She is truly an inspiration! 

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HHF Supporter Alex Mussomeli Selected as Finalist in 2016 Oticon Focus on People Awards

By Oticon

Alex Mussomeli  of Westport is among the outstanding individuals with hearing loss selected as a finalist in 2016 Oticon Focus on People Awards, a national competition that celebrates individuals who are helping to eliminate negative stereotypes of what it means to have a hearing loss.  The soon-to-be sixth grader is one of three outstanding young people selected as a finalist in the Student category.  Beginning June 20, people can cast their vote for Alex at  Total number of votes will help determine whether Alex is the first, second or third place winner in the national awards competition. 

                                                                                                  Westport News

                                                                                               Westport News

This is the 18th year that the Oticon Focus on People Awards has honored hearing impaired students, adults and advocacy volunteers who have demonstrated through their accomplishments that hearing loss does not limit a person’s ability to make a positive difference in the world.



Alex, diagnosed with hearing loss as an infant, appreciates the advances in hearing research and technology that have made his life easier and happier. The gifted musician and artist is determined to use his talents so other children with hearing loss can experience the benefits he has enjoyed. He found his inspiration in a legally blind artist who raised $1 million for charities benefiting children through the sale of his paintings.  This April, Alex held his first solo art show to benefit the non-profit Hearing Health Foundation’s Hearing Restoration Project. The young artist worked diligently for a year on the colorful acrylic paintings, prints and notecards that raised a whopping $16,000 for the Foundation.

Website visitors are encouraged to read all of the stories from this year’s 12 finalists in four categories: Student, Adult, Advocacy and Practitioner. 

Voting closes on August 15. Winners will be announced in September.

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HHF's FY'15 Annual Report: Read It Now

By Morgan Leppla

Hearing Health Foundation (HHF) is pleased to announce that our 2015 annual report is now available. From the latest hearing research to how we have worked to fulfill our mission, the report is a comprehensive look at our programs, events, and activities for fiscal year 2015 (Oct 1, 2014 - Sept 30, 2015).

In the report, we review HHF’s progress, talk to supporters, and decode the financials. Here are some highlights:

  • Check out the incredible supporters who ran, hiked, and hosted events all to benefit HHF’s mission!

  • HHF’s Hearing Restoration Project (HRP) consortium of researchers made notable strides in hearing and tinnitus research. In 2015, the HRP designed a model to test candidate hair cells for regeneration in deafened adult mice, and that’s only a fraction of the story.

    • HRP researchers like Andy Groves, Ph.D., thank you. “Federal funding for biomedical research has decreased by over 20% since 2003, and it shows no sign of increasing any time soon. Your support is critical to help support the skilled young scientists in my lab and to keep the lab afloat,” he says.

  • HHF awarded ten Emerging Research Grants (ERGs) to innovative scientists in the areas of Central Auditory Processing Disorder (CAPD), Hyperacusis, Ménière’s Disease, and Tinnitus. Learn more about what they are doing with their research grants.

  • See if your name made the donor list. Didn’t see your name...make a gift by Sept 30, 2016, to be listed in fiscal year 2016’s annual report.

  • Keep your eye (or ear!) out for hearing-related facts and statistics.

Get all the details in the full report here. We are excited by our progress over the past year and hope you enjoy reading it. As always, have any questions, please email us at!

Please consider making a gift today so we can continue to carry out our mission and find a cure for hearing loss and tinnitus.


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Support HHF This Mother's Day

By Heather Friedman

Laura (second from left) with her sister in-law Liza, her maternal Grandmother and Aunt, with Heather on the far right.

Laura (second from left) with her sister in-law Liza, her maternal Grandmother and Aunt, with Heather on the far right.

For three and a half years my daughter, Laura, attempted to hear and to be understood. As her mother, I struggled to make sense of her difficulties—which I knew in my heart did not stem from developmental or attention deficit disorders.

Prior to her diagnoses at three and a half, Laura had a very difficult time communicating. I took her to specialists and started her on speech therapy, with little result. When Laura was finally diagnosed and fitted with hearing aids, things began to fall into place.

When Laura finally received the correct diagnosis—hearing loss—I was relieved. Parents and children should not have to wait over three years to have this condition detected, struggling all the while with delays hampering social and emotional growth. Parents should not have to go through the pain of knowing something is holding their baby back, when it could be so easily detected.

In 1993, four years after Laura was born, Hearing Health Foundation’s steadfast advocacy work led to the passing of Universal Newborn Hearing Screening Legislation. As a result—today, 97% of American babies are tested for hearing loss at birth. This means newborns with hearing loss can immediately get the help they need through technology such as hearing aids and cochlear implants, as well as speech and language therapy. This means an easier life, from birth, for children with hearing loss.

Today, I am proud to say that Laura is a happy and successful adult. In fact, she is such a staunch champion for people with hearing loss that when a job became available at Hearing Health Foundation, she jumped at the chance to work there! As Hearing Health Foundation’s Communications and Programs Manager, Laura works hard to advocate for those with hearing loss, to prevent hearing loss, and most importantly to raise funds to research for a cure.

It is my hope that she can one day benefit from her tireless efforts. Your support can make my dream for her, and other people living with hearing loss, a reality. A gift to this amazing organization is a gift to all people with hearing loss, as well as to their families!

This Mother's Day, Hearing Health Foundation would like to shine a light on all Mothers for all they do for their children and families.

Please consider giving a gift in Honor or in Memory of a wonderful Mother you know. Your gift will be used to fund groundbreaking research to prevent and cure Hearing Loss and Tinnitus and to promote hearing health.

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Proud Grandparents

By Darel Sorensen, Ed.D.

When our grandchild Mikaela, now 15, was born, newborn hearing screening was not yet an option at their hospital in California. She was diagnosed with a sensorineural hearing loss at age 23 months, after we noticed she had delayed speech.

At age 2 she began attending an “early start program” and preschool at age 3. Two years later Mikaela was joined in preschool by her younger brother Christian Joseph (CJ), now 13. He had passed the newborn screening test, but by age 2 1/2 he began to lose his hearing. After an alert teacher suggested testing, CJ was also diagnosed with sensorineural hearing loss.

To attend school, Mikaela and CJ traveled for one hour each day. The bus ride is a long one for kids who are toddlers, but our anxiety was tempered knowing that Mikaela and CJ would be getting specialized assistance with their hearing, speech, and language skills as well as learning how to sign. It would help prepare them for mainstream school classes.

Before she was 3 years old, Mikaela had cochlear implant (CI) procedures in both ears. A few years later, also at age 3, CJ also received a CI for his left ear and a hearing aid in his right.

Since the deaf and hard-of-hearing (DHOH) program in their school district spans kindergarten through high school, they have benefited from learning communication and coping skills from the same DHOH and speech-language therapists as they got older. They know to ask to sit on the side of the classroom, so they can more easily rotate to face whoever is speaking, and to be specific about what part of a conversation they missed when asking for something to be repeated.

      Mikaela and CJ - 2 1/2 and 1 years old

      Mikaela and CJ - 2 1/2 and 1 years old

Thanks to this consistent help, Mikaela and CJ were able to be mainstreamed into their local schools. Now in middle school, CJ has tried his hand at sports and now plays clarinet in the marching band; he was also selected to play in the concert band. Mikaela has played on the school basketball team for four years and received this commendation from her DHOH specialist:   

“Mikaela exudes confidence in class, never shying away from raising her hand, offering her insights, speaking up about her ideas and opinions. She advocates for herself by talking with her teachers about what works best for her. She is energetic, personable, and hardworking. In addition to her own success, she looks out for her fellow hard-of-hearing peers in order to help them succeed as well.”

Recently there was talk that the DHOH program may be moving from its current locations. Mikaela was quick to contact the administration to tell them how much the program meant to her and to her success: “Both DHOH and mainstream teachers… helped me understand everything, and now I’m a straight-A student because of them,” she wrote.

“The DHOH campuses are safer, friendlier, and better than most schools…. If you move the program you’ll be losing the teachers, staff, and students who treated us like family [and] the hearing students at those schools will be losing the ability of learning another language (sign language) and being friends with the deaf. PLEASE KEEP THE PROGRAMS WHERE THEY ARE!! Thanks for reading.”

These steps toward self-advocacy, as well as their self-confidence and concern for others, will serve them well. We could not be more proud. We wanted to share this story about our grandchildren because we believe in HHF and its mission of research, education, and prevention of hearing loss.

Darel Sorensen, Ed.D., is a retired educational psychologist and director of special education services. He lives with his wife, Betty, in California. 

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