Sunday, February 07, 2010

Laurie Pullins gives hope to deaf, hearing impaired

Laurie Pullins gives hope to deaf, hearing impaired

When Laurie Pullins first heard the sweet voice of a child speaking to his mother, she cried.

“I didn’t know until then what I had been missing,” said Pullins, who was diagnosed with severe, profound hearing loss at the age of 2. Five years ago, she received a cochlear implant and for the first time, was able to hear children’s voices, something she had been unable to do when her own children were small.

Pullins, who now serves as president of the Hearing Loss Association of Knoxville, said, “Growing up with a hearing loss, I was very isolated. ... I felt singled out because I was a deaf person in a hearing world and would never really fit anywhere. I didn’t belong in the deaf world, either, because sign language was not a part of my life.”

Pullins said her mother, a teacher, did not agree with the healthcare professionals who recommended that Pullins be put in an institution for the deaf, or that she would never be able to have a normal life. Instead, she and Pullins’ father aggressively sought out ways in which their child could learn to speak and understand the speech of others.

Pullins wore hearing aids, which amplify sound, until the small amount of hearing she had began to also disappear. At the advice of her audiologist, Pullins explored the option of a cochlear implant, which she received in 2005. Her second implant was done in 2007. A cochlear implant is a small, complex electronic device consisting of an external portion that sits behind the ear and a second portion that is surgically placed under the skin. It does not restore normal hearing but can give a deaf person a useful representation of sounds in the environment and help in understanding speech.

Organizations such as the Hearing Loss Association of Knoxville and Association of Late-Deafened Adults (ALDA) offer support to the deaf and hearing impaired. Technological advances help with daily living and quality of life.