Hearing Loss Leads to Generosity

A Whole New World

Sporting a blinged-out hearing aid, little Elle Bodmann finally hears the sounds the rest of us take for granted

As Doug and Malissa Bodmann walked out to their car with 6-year-old Elle — who had just received a hearing aid (customized with color and sparkles) — her parents basked in the warm summer day and in the comfort that their youngest daughter could now fully experience and engage in the world around her.

Elle Bodmann

This became startlingly clear when Elle announced, “Mommy, I can hear traffic now.”

Thanks to technology, Elle’s world had opened up and she could hear normally, “which gave us such relief,” Mr. Bodmann says, “because we realized that everything really was going to be OK.” 

An Unexpected Diagnosis

Just two months earlier, Elle had been diagnosed with hearing loss.

“She passed her newborn and kindergarten screenings,” Mrs. Bodmann says. “It wasn’t until her class was learning about the five senses that she told us she had difficulty hearing in her left ear.”

In May 2012, the Bodmanns were referred to Cleveland Clinic’s Pediatric Hearing Management Clinic, a multidisciplinary clinic which provides a comprehensive family-centered approach to evaluating and managing hearing impairment in children.

After computed tomography imaging, Elle was diagnosed with an enlarged vestibular aqueduct. Because her duct is too big, her inner ear has too much pressure. For this reason she is highly likely to have increased hearing loss and balance changes. Elle currently has a mild to moderate hearing loss in her left ear and hearing within normal limits in her other ear.

“The team at Cleveland Clinic gave us comprehensive care in one day,” Mr. Bodmann says. “Home, medical and school needs were starting to be coordinated. Beyond the audiologist meetings, we talked to authorities on disability laws, who showed us how to be advocates for Elle. And we learned that helping her hear better was the easy part; other things would be more difficult.”

Adds Mrs. Bodmann: “Our hearing health team assured us that Elle would be fine, and she will never live in a silent world because technology will likely always be a few steps ahead of her needs.”

In June, Elle received her hearing aid, and a whole new world opened up to her.

Benefiting from Technology

Most hearing health experts say that children with hearing loss want hearing aids because it makes their world more interesting and full. Also, commonly used technology such as earbuds and Bluetooth has reduced the stigma associated with the use of a hearing aid. Hearing loss, without appropriate management, also can lead to poor school performance and insufficient social-interaction skills, creating isolation.

“We teach older children to be advocates for themselves because it’s about their quality of life,” says Allison Ziska Dirham, AuD, Elle’s audiologist. “Kids might think that people will look at their hearing aid and think they’re not smart. But the hearing aid actually allows them to prove people wrong.”

A Lesson in Giving

“Elle’s life has been immeasurably improved by her hearing aid,” Mrs. Bodmann says. “Unfortunately, we found that many insurance companies don’t cover the cost of hearing aids. It depends on the type of hearing loss, its severity and other factors. Under Ohio law, a unilateral hearing loss isn’t considered a disability.”  

This frustration motivated the Bodmanns to try to raise enough money to buy a hearing aid for a child whose family couldn’t afford one.

They created a Personal Fundraising Page through Cleveland Clinic’s website and, at their annual holiday party, asked guests to make a donation to the hearing aid fund in lieu of bringing hostess gifts. Today, they’ve raised $3,100, and donations are still coming in.

“We’re grateful for the care Elle received, and we feel good about what her future holds because we have the right partner in care,” Mr. Bodmann says. “When we decided we wanted to do something to show our gratitude, Cleveland Clinic held our hands again and made it easy for us to pay it forward to another family.”

Adds Mrs. Bodmann: “We don’t lose sight of the fact that there was a period of mourning following Elle’s diagnosis. It ended when she was so happy because she could hear. I can’t imagine a parent not being able to help their child because they simply didn’t have the money.”

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