By Cass Rains, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle
For more than 50 years Hedges Regional Speech and Hearing Center has helped adults and children from throughout northwest Oklahoma with speech and hearing issues.
Its mission is to provide speech, language and hearing therapy. By working with community professionals, Hedges is committed to improving communications skills for those in need in northwest Oklahoma.
Executive Director Carmen Ball said Hedges is the only full-service speech and hearing center in northwest Oklahoma.
“The other day I had someone tell me we only serve children,” Ball said. “Probably half our clients are children. The other 50 percent is split evenly between the 21- to 61-year-olds and the senior group.”
She said the youngest client fitted with hearing aids was 3 years old and the oldest client was 105 years old. Clients often are referred by a doctor, or a school, and are cared for by one of the center’s five speech/language pathologists.
“If we have a child referred by doctor or parent for speech, the very first thing we do is check their hearing,” Ball said. “If there’s no hearing issue then we continue on with what might be the problem.”
5 heads are better than 1
She said having five pathologists is great because they work together on addressing a client’s problem and often come up with creative solutions.
“I am amazed at how creative our speech pathologists are,” Ball said. “They have done things that integrate into the child’s life.
“One of our speech pathologists made sure the mom brought the child’s spelling work from school. While they worked on spelling they worked on (pronouncing) the words.”
Those with hearing or speech problems are less likely to communicate and be involved with their environments. Ball said it is tremendously important for children to be able to hear and speak.
“In every portion of a child’s life they’re expected to communicate” she said. “If they have issues hearing, or with speech, it may mean they don’t speak up in class as much or with their family. They lose a valuable part of the human experience.”
Making lives richer
Children with speech and hearing issues also may lose out on values and skills that impact their everyday lives if they do not receive treatment, not to mention self-confidence.
“It’s going to make their life easier and richer, as well as their family’s lives,” Ball said. “What we do with a 4-year-old, or for any age, makes an impact on what they are doing.”
The earlier a problem can be diagnosed, the better, Ball said. Newborn babies undergo hearing tests and sometimes fail. If they do, Hedges is one of the places recommended for testing because of up-to-date equipment.
“We have some less intrusive forms of testing,” Ball said.
“A child may be fussing and moving and not paying attention, and we still can get an accurate read on their hearing. Our youngest client we’ve ever tested is 2 weeks old. Our audiologist is wonderful.”
Catching problems early
Catching a hearing problem early is essential for a child’s development. Ball said research shows children who have a problem diagnosed and receive therapy by 2 or 21⁄2 have a good chance of entering school at the same level as their peers.
Ball said a child who finally can hear after having problems can witness a life-changing experience.
“All of a sudden they can hear their cat purr, they can hear their mom in the other room, they can hear their teacher when they are in the back of the classroom,” she said.
Not just for the young
Ball said hearing is just as important for adults. Those who have hearing problems later in life often tend to withdraw.
“You miss out on a lot of vital contact with your family or people at your church, no matter what your age is,” she said.
Ball said being fitted with a hearing aid isn’t like it was five years ago.
“Hearing aids have changed so much,” she said. “As much as cell phones have changed in the last five to 10 years, so have hearing aids.
“You don’t buy hearing aids in the small medium or large anymore. The advances in hearing aid technology is just incredible.”
She said some people buy a hearing aid to match their hair color, and some kids put soccer balls or decals on them.
“They want people to know it’s pretty cool equipment,” she said.
Hedges is a non-profit entity, and is a United Way agency. Ball said funds also are generated through speech therapy and hearing aids. Grants and occasional fundraisers also help support the center.
For information about Hedges, 2615 E. Randolph, call 234-3734.