Hearing loss is sometimes misdiagnosed or misunderstood by professionals and teachers. Often this misunderstanding can result in individuals with hearing loss being treated as less intelligent. This is cruel when it happens to adults, and devastating when it happens to children. As a child April Uncapher was diagnosed not with the hearing loss that she had, but with a mental disability. She might have been doomed to never recognize her potential, if it wasn't for her mother's refusal to accept the doctor’s diagnoses.
April Uncahpher was born deaf. She was three years old before she was diagnosed with any condition, and at that time, she wasn’t told she had hearing loss. The doctors informed her mother that April was mentally challenged. Her mother was devastated by this news, but a part of her refused to believe it. She’d seen what her daughter was capable of, and it seemed to her that she far exceeded what the doctors had defined as April’s limits.
Knowing she would stick by April and that no matter what April would surpass all the doctors' expectations, her mother took her to Crossroads Rehabilitation Center. The doctor there suspected that April was deaf, and fitted her with hearing aids. The difference they made in her life was instant and extended. She was instantly able to hear sounds and slowly learned to communicate like other children her age. She did so well, that she graduated high school, college, and then went on to get her Master’s Degree. She’s used her education to teach others. She has taught in middle school, high school, and adult courses since she was incorrectly diagnosed as mentally challenged.
April tells us that hearing aids “Changed my course of life.” She says some of the greatest benefits have been with modern technologies. She uses Bluetooth technology and pared with her i-com has begun, “hearing sounds I never heard before.” Her digital hearing aids are a vast improvement over her analog, giving her greater ability to interact with the world around her, and continue to exceed everyone’s expectations of her.
Thank you, April, for sharing your story with us. You and your mother are truly inspiring and stand as a warning for parents to never rule out hearing loss as a cause of a child’s poor performance in school. Though neonatal testing is more common today, hearing loss can also be progressive. As Dr. Dana Oviatt points out on his website, "Despite the success of neonatal hearing screening, it is critical that physicians, audiologists and parents remain vigilant. This is because neonatal hearing screening will not identify late-onset and progressive hearing loss..." The American Speech-Language- Hearing Association also adds to this point noting that successful treatment can mean a boost to the child's self-esteem, “When a hearing loss—even a mild one—is correctly diagnosed, the child knows the truth about what is wrong, as opposed to thinking she is "crazy" or "stupid."