Kathy B. looks back at her son’s life, from discovering he had pediatric sensorineural hearing loss to breaking down barriers and playing football. Read how Nicholas does not let anything stop him in his quest to live an incredible life:
“Nicholas was diagnosed with hearing loss at his newborn screening. A week later, an audiologist told us that he was classified as having a bilateral pediatric sensorineural hearing loss. His right ear was diagnosed with a moderate loss and his left ear was diagnosed with a mild to moderate loss. The hearing loss was to a degree that it would effect his development of speech and he would most definitely need to use hearing aids. We asked if his hearing would get better and we were told that ‘no, it would most likely get worse.’
Therapy for pediatric sensorineural hearing loss
Nicholas was fitted with hearing aids and began early intervention speech therapy. At the age of 1, we enrolled him in the parent/infant speech program at a school in Canton, where he went weekly and worked with a speech therapist.
At the age of 3, Nicholas only had six words. The director of the school at the time sat me down and said she believed Nicholas’ hearing loss had increased and suggested we do another ABR (auditory brainstem response) to be sure. We took her advice, and that is when we found out he was profoundly deaf and his hearing aids were not helping.
Qualification for cochlear implants
His audiologist told us that Nicholas now qualified for cochlear implants if that was what we wanted. After a lot of soul searching and internet searching, we decided the best plan for Nicholas and our family was to give him the chance to hear and develop speech.
Nicholas was first implanted on his right side when he was 3 years old. He was then implanted on his left side when he was 4 years old. He stayed at his school until the age of 8, when he was mainstreamed into the regular school system.
Nicholas loves all different kinds of sports. He joined soccer and started karate when he was 6 years old. He loved the action and being part of the group. He was always fascinated with football; he loved watching it and talking about it. The older he got, the more he wanted to play football. We explained to him that we had concerns over a head injury, and we did not want to take the risk of him playing football.
Nicholas watched his friends play football and would get mad and sad and ask why God made him deaf. He said he hated his processors and because of them he could not play football. This broke my heart because I knew one day he would question us about the decision to get him implanted and that was what I dreaded.
In spring of 2017, Nicholas played baseball for the first time. After watching him at bat, I realized that if I could let him stand and have a 60 mile an hour fastball thrown at him, I needed to reconsider his desire to play football.
My husband was more willing than myself to let Nicholas play contact sports; however, I wanted to research and see if there were other kids with cochlear implants playing football and if so, what about the helmet? Did they wear the processor during the games? I had so many questions.
I learned there was a company that could design a specialized helmet with the pads situated, so Nicholas could still wear his processors with the helmet on. We decided that with a custom helmet we would let Nicholas try football.
Playing football with cochlear implants
My husband spoke with the coaches of our youth football group and they were great about working with Nicholas. We got him fitted for the helmet and had the inner pads specially designed for his processors. Nicholas also wears a headband to secure his processors in place under his helmet.
Nicholas is tall and broad shouldered for his age and the coaches found a great need for him on the line. Nicholas was paired on the line with friends who knew him and they devised ways to make sure he understood the plays. Nicholas excelled and made it to first string and he played defense, offense and special teams. He loved playing the game and was excited for every practice and every game.
After football season, Nicholas broadened his horizons and started wrestling with our youth wrestling team. He wrestled in the 176-188 weight class. Nicholas looks up to his coaches, especially his wrestling coach. The encouragement and lessons he has learned from these men has given Nicholas a new confidence about himself and what he can accomplish. Before each match, one of the coaches explains his processors to the referee and other team. Nicholas again excelled and made it to the Massachusetts State Youth Wrestling Championship. He placed 7th in his weight class for the state.
Nothing holding him back
Nicholas has broken down walls and barriers we never anticipated he would have when he got his first cochlear implant. Nicholas has never been a child to let the answer ‘no’ or ‘you cannot do that’ stop him. Nicholas has educated so many people about cochlear implants in the last year and how having them does not stop you from doing anything you want to do. Nicholas now tells us he is so glad to have his cochlear implants. He enjoys listening to music and uses music as a way to get himself revved up for a game.
Nicholas is determined to continue football and wrestling through junior high into high school and beyond if possible. In the future, Nicholas hopes to break down the barrier of the military. He would love to be able to follow his both grandfathers’ footsteps and fight for his country.
Nicholas has changed so many people’s perceptions about being deaf and wearing cochlear implants. However, I would say the biggest change he has made is in us as his parents. We have seen over the last year that Nicholas has learned far more than just how to play a game or how to wrestle, he has learned self confidence, self esteem, teamwork and dedication to working hard for a goal.”
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