Kate's Second Hearing Birthday Celebration

Kate Morris looks forward to celebrating her hearing birthday each year. Click here to read about last year's event. Her cochlear implant activation was in August of 2009 and she's enjoyed hearing lots of sounds ever since.


Running for Sawyer

Jennifer Andress is at it again. She's chosen another hearing impaired child from The Bell Center to run for in the February 2011 race, the Mercedes Marathon. You can visit her page here for more information about Sawyer and to donate to this worthy cause. She is asking for each person to donate $13.10 for the miles she will run. Here's what Jennifer says.

"This year I will be running for Sawyer Collins. Sawyer is hearing-impaired, like both of my boys, and just received his cochlear implants this summer. He is 15 months old, and was diagnosed with Leukodystrophy. He has a big brother, Grayson, and loves peanut butter sandwiches, hanging upside-down, and playing with his mom and dad's cell phones!"

And here's a little of what you'll find at the Bell Center...

"Children receive early intervention services including physical, occupational, and speech/language therapies; special education services; and nutritional counseling two or four times a week in a preschool setting."


Looking to the Light (Part II)

(To read Part I, click here)

Praise God everything looked normal in the MRI.

My husband and I definitely know that God has his hand in our journey with Ella Marie. We know that "our plan" is not always the same as his. Looking back, we can see how God has prepared us for this point. For instance, my degree is in elementary education. I have had the opportunity to work with a child with a cochlear implant. I love to teach children how to read. Since Ella Marie will most likely have difficulty in her oral language development and reading and writing at first, I have the patience to work with her and try many strategies with her. My husband is the most loving and patient person I know. Ella Marie already has him wrapped around her little finger. He is such a hands-on daddy. We are fortunate that Ella Marie will have parents, family, therapists, and friends committed to her pathway of learning.

Where We Are Now:

Ella Marie will be having surgery in September, 2010 at Children’s Hospital with Dr. Woolley as her surgeon. She will be 15 ½ months old. Actually, Ella Marie was scheduled for surgery on August 9, 2010, but caught bronchitis in late July. Children’s Hospital informed us that any time a patient has an upper respiratory issue, surgery must be rescheduled for 4-6 weeks from the time symptoms are gone. As mentioned above, we had a feeling that Ella Marie would be a candidate for bilateral implants. We were definitely headed in that direction. We wanted them as fast as we could have them. We battled with the decision on having simultaneous or sequential surgeries. On the one hand, one surgery means one recovery, activation, and stress on us. On the other hand Ella Marie has done extremely well with her hearing aids. According to testing she is not showing a delay in language at this time. I have read a lot of research and had her tested multiple times at multiple hospitals/pediatric audiologists/cochlear implant centers, and decided to try one implant at this time while knowing that we may choose to implant the other ear soon. It was a very hard decision because this was a complete 180 in the decision that we first thought we had made earlier in the process. Ella Marie attends Auditory Verbal Therapy at the Hear Center every other week and will receive therapy weekly following her surgery. Through genetic testing, we discovered she has Connexin 26. I have started a blog for Ella Marie describing our journey. I am currently typing up all of my written notes, and it should be updated soon. You can access and follow our blog at Learning to Hear God. In the blog, I try to cover all of the activities and developmental play that we engage Ella Marie in which has made her blossom.

How God Has Worked In Our Life Through Ella Marie

I titled this “Looking to the Light” a very special reason. Being our first child, Ryan and I had nothing to compare Ella Marie to. If she was crying, we didn’t know if she was hurting or if it was due to just being a baby. Being prone to ear infections, we knew that she cried a lot from those. One thing that we noticed when she was very small was that when she was crying or very upset there was one thing that would make her feel better and comfort her. She loved the chandelier light in her bedroom. When she would start crying uncontrollably, Ryan or I would stand under the chandelier and raise her up and down under the light. She was fixated on the light. It always made her feel better. What a lesson to us! Throughout this process there have been a lot of ups and downs. There have been a lot of days where I cried and wanted things to be different but Ella Marie taught us that we need to “Look to the Light” just like she did. Just like Ella Marie, when I looked upward I felt better. When I feel like life has gotten so complicated, Ella Marie was teaching me a simple lesson “Look to the Light”, Jesus Christ. Although Ella Marie’s hearing loss was not what we wanted, when we focused on the Light, God began to unfold His plant on how he had prepared us our whole lives for having a little girl with hearing loss. From teaching a first grade student in a previous year with a cochlear implant to my career choice as first a first grade teacher and currently university professor where my focus is early childhood language and reading, to providing us with supportive family and friends who all pitch in and are committed to supporting Ella Marie. God taught me this lesson through our little girl. We are committed to serving as a resource for parents of children with hearing loss.

Below, I have listed a few Bible verses that have spoken to us throughout this journey.

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." John 8:12 (NIV)

Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always. I Chronicles 16:11 (NIV)

For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)

Lisa Clayton, mom to Ella Marie


Looking to the Light (Part I)

We are new parents to our first daughter, Ella Marie. She was born in April 2009. Our journey of raising a child who would need extra help started the day we were leaving the hospital. Ella Marie did not pass her newborn hearing screening, and we were told not to worry that it was probably just fluid. Of course, as a new parent I was very worried. Everyone tried to tell me not to worry, but those who know me knew that I would. I remember my husband Ryan holding Ella Marie in the hospital and making this statement, "She is such a special girl and she is going to accomplish special things."

At that point it was almost as though I knew something was wrong. Of course, my husband was just talking about Ella Marie and did not think that this statement would linger in my mind. I too know that Ella Marie is special and will accomplish great things and look forward to watching what God has in store for her.

After leaving the hospital 48 hours after her birth, we went home and spent time as a family. We went to the pediatrician's office for her 1 week checkup. She did not pass again at 1 week and we were told not to worry that they still saw fluid in her ears. At two weeks old she was diagnosed with double ear infections so the doctors continued to believe that she may not be passing because of fluid. At five weeks old we went to Children's Hospital in Birmingham, AL and they told us that as hard as it may be we needed to wait another six weeks to determine if it was fluid. At this same visit tests were run and she failed those as well. Finally after multiple failed tests I asked for a referral to Shea Clinic in Memphis, TN. Again, Ella Marie failed her tests there. They set up another appointment about a week or two later and at one day before Ella Marie turned 3 months old a sedated ABR (Auditory Brain Response test) told us that she was deaf. She did not respond in either ear at 90 decibels. Wow! We were shocked.

We thought she may have some hearing loss, but severe to profound hearing loss was not what we were thinking. So of course it has been an emotional roller coaster, but we also look forward to learning along with Ella Marie and providing her with the best chance for success. After finding out that Ella Marie was deaf, we learned that most likely she would be a candidate for bilateral cochlear implants. Before implant surgery can take place, you must go through a trial period of using hearing aids. She received her hearing aids at 3 1/2 months old. Right before Ella Marie turned four months old, Children's Hospital ran an MRI brain scan to see if her auditory nerves were present. Without nerves present Ella Marie would not be a cochlear implant candidate.
(to be continued)

Written by Lisa Clayton, Ella Marie's mom


Dr. Audie Woolley in ENT Today

A local ENT, Dr. Audie Woolley, was recently featured in the magazine ENT Today. Click here to read the full article. The article was about the benefits of bilateral cochlear implants. Bama Ears ran a series of interviews with Dr. Woolley called Chronicles of an Extreme ENT back in 2009.

Chronicles of an Extreme ENT I

Chronicles of an Extreme ENT II

Chronicles of an Extreme ENT III


Food Fundraiser

Zoes Kitchen will donate 15% of sales on Thurs. May 20, 2010 to the Children's HEAR Center but you must print a flyer and present it between 2-8 pm at 1830 29th Ave S, Suite 115
If you can't print this one, email Bama Ears and we can send you one via email. Check out the Zoes Kitchen Menu here.



WHEN: Tues May 18 & Wed May 19

9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

WHERE: The Children's Hear Center Lobby

WHAT: Visit an extensive display of top-quality educational toys, books, and games from DISCOVERY TOYS. All are designed to help children learn by play.

WHY: These products are not generally available elsewhere and all are unconditionally guaranteed for life! Shop for the children in your life and your purchases will earn FREE Discovery Toys products for the HEAR Center.

Can't attend? You can still participate by viewing the products online and then calling (404 325-8697) or e-mailing your order to DT


Pancake Breakfast Fundraiser

Second Annual Charity League Pancake Breakfast
April 24, 2010
8:00-10:30 am
Golden Rule BBQ
744 29th Street South
Birmingham, AL 35233

Special Mother's Day Breakfast
Golden Rule BBQ in Lakeview
May 8, 2010
8:00-10:30 am

For more info click here

These events will benefit the Children's HEAR Center


Allie's Ears

Allie passed her newborn screening, but when she was two years old we noticed that her speech was not developing as well as we thought it should. We had her hearing tested just before she turned three. Our family has no history of hearing loss and so we were really not prepared for the news we received. We were shocked to find out that she had profound hearing loss in her right ear and mild to severe loss in her left ear. I will never forget the feeling I had as the audiologist went over the test results. It was so unbelievable. Here was a two-year-old who knew her colors and numbers, but couldn’t hear! Apparently she had been losing her hearing over time without us realizing it. We have been through many tests – including genetics testing – but no cause has been found for the hearing loss. The first two questions that we had - why and when - will probably never be answered. We moved right on to the next question - what now??

She was aided right away in her left ear and we went right to work in speech therapy at the HEAR center. We knew nothing about the process and what lay ahead for our family. Just when she had started to finally show some progress in her speech, she lost the rest of her hearing. We felt like the rug had been pulled out from under us again, but she was then a candidate for cochlear implants. She received bilateral implants on January 4, 2010 just after her fourth birthday and was activated just nine days later. The look on her face at her activation when she could hear again was priceless!

Allie now attends the Alabama School for Hearing and is showing great progress. She started turning to her name just weeks after her activation – locating sound is something she could never do with only one good ear before. She has even starting running to get the phone when it rings!

Our journey began only 18 months ago, but what a roller coaster it has been!  I didn’t know what a cochlear implant even was before. We didn’t know any families dealing with this or where to turn for information. We are grateful for the support we have received. We have a strong Christian faith so we have always known that God had a plan for Allie’s life. It has taken some turns we were not expecting, but we are looking forward to watching it unfold!

Hear more about Allie from her story featured on the Alabama School for the Hearing video

Written by Natalie, Allie's mom



Alabama has a new parent mentoring program for families with children who have hearing loss. It's called PEEPs, Parents Educating & Encouraging Parents. A team of five Parent Mentors will volunteer to work directly with professionals, from Teachers of the Deaf, Early Intervention, speech therapists, doctors, anyone who works with children who have a hearing loss, gathering current and useful information from these sources and serve as an additional support to the families these professionals service. Parent Mentors will connect families with other dedicated Alabama volunteers as well, who guide new families and offer additional support. You can find out more about the PEEPs Program at The Children's HEAR Center or at our blog Alabama PEEPs.

Although the PEEPs program is currently housed at The HEAR Center we are not limited to its patient base. We are a parent group and can service all families in Alabama who can benefit from our mentors. Professionals give PEEPs no patient information. Instead families are offered ways to contact the mentors for support through email and our website.


The Charity League's Rhinestones & Wranglers Event

The Charity League announces it's annual
Rhinestones & Wranglers event to benefit the Children's HEAR Center and E.P.I.C. School with dinner, drinks, live music, and an auction

Tickets are $75
Event is at B & A  Warehouse
March 25, 2010
6-9 pm


Running for Lilly

Jennifer Andress, a dedicated advocate for families with special-needs children, has recently combined several of her favorite things in hopes to not only raise awareness for Lilly's condition (Mitochondrial Disease) but also transfer that awareness into raising ca$h for a charity. Jennifer has been an avid runner for years now, and being a cancer survivor has given her even more reasons to put on her favorite running shoes, crank up some Pearl Jam, and enjoy the fresh air while running for miles. She recently decided to enter her first full marathon (Mercedes Marathon), and raise money for The Bell Center on Lilly's behalf. Lilly and Jennifer's own children have something common, all are deaf and have learned to hear with cochlear implants. We wish Jennifer and Lilly good luck on Feb. 14. Click here to read more and find out how you can help Lilly and The Bell Center.


Alabama School for the Hearing

A few months ago, I was invited to observe a pre-school class at The Alabama School for the Hearing currently housed at The Canterbury United Methodist Church in Birmingham, AL. Children's Hospital and Alabama Ear Institute collaborated to give parents of hearing-impaired children a preschool that focuses on developing and increasing verbal language skills through listening. According to Nancy Gregg (Certified Auditory-Verbal Therapist) who teaches at the school, "The curriculum is literacy- and language-based. Each child also receives individual parent-centered therapy sessions." She encourages parents interested in the school to come by and visit, which is exactly what I did.

When I entered the classroom, I first noticed the beaming faces of these young children. All had smiles and seemed to be having a great time. The teachers (all Certified AVTs) were very patient with the kids and the small group size made it easy for everyone to speak, be heard, and listen to others. A classroom sound field FM system made teachers easier to hear through the children's hearing devices. They sang songs, they had lunch, they played, and they were encouraged to listen and speak the entire time. Not a minute was wasted when valuable language and listening skills could be incorporated throughout the day.

Currently, classes are held three days a week at the large and beautiful church, tucked away just outside of the busy streets of Birmingham. If you have a hearing-impaired child in Alabama (ages 3-7) and are interested in learning more about this school, feel free to email Nancy for more info.