Hearing & Children
When Peter Augustine was asked to prepare a story for his second-grade book-writing project, he didn't have to think long. The 8-year-old would write about how it is to wear hearing aids. Peter has a mild-to-moderate sensorineural hearing loss, which was identified at age 3. In Having Hearing Aids, Peter describes in his own words what it was like for him to get his first hearing instruments.
Peter's story came to Oticon's attention through a family friend in Ohio, who is an active advocate for hearing-impaired children. The concept of a book written by a grade-schooler had a natural appeal to Oticon. When Teri Augustine sent the copy of her son's work to them, it was clear that his story needed to be published to benefit other children and families. Having Hearing Aids offers an encouraging account from a little boy that will help other hearing-impaired children love their hearing aids as much as Peter loves his.
Peter begins his story by telling how his parents found out about his hearing loss: “I was saying weird words. My mom couldn't understand my words.” Peter's love of drawing comes through in the detailed images, which are quickly recognizable to a pediatric audiologist: “statues” of Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck in the test room and the audiologist seen in shadow through the window. He recalls details of the hearing test: “The more I got right, the more the sounds got softer and softer,” as well as how happy he was to get a sticker when he was done.
The young author also describes what it's like to have his hearing aids at school, where he uses an FM system with a speaker on his desk. “The microphone makes the teacher look like the person at the drive-through window,” he writes, and his close-up image of the teacher attests to that! Peter even describes performing every hearing aid user's informal test: “This is how I know if the hearing aid is dead or alive. I put my hand over it and if it squeals, that means it's alive. If it doesn't squeal, that means I need fresh hearing aid batteries.”
Peter's parents, Steve and Teri Augustine, and his two older sisters are very proud of his efforts. Oticon now distributes Peter's engaging and informative story in a number of languages as encouragement for all hearing-impaired children who are getting new hearing aids. With the publication of his book, the now 10-year old Peter has become a slightly reluctant celebrity in his hometown of Ellicott City, MD, near Baltimore. However, he still smiles modestly when he's asked to sign another copy for friends and family. Peter's 13-year-old sister, Holly, also uses binaural hearing aids, but her mother says, “As a teenager, Holly doesn't quite share Peter's attitude. She jokes about writing a story called Hating Hearing Aids!”
Having Hearing Aids was introduced in the U.S. at the recent ASHA Convention, where the colorful soft-cover book drew smiles from attendees and the copies quickly disappeared. Individual copies are now available at no charge from Oticon to hearing care offices and pediatric facilities. The book will also be mailed to all children who sign up with Oticon's OtiKids program.
It can also be helpful for normal-hearing children to read Peter's book and learn what it is like for their hearing-impaired friends to get and wear hearing aids. Peter's story is an addition to Oticon's extensive OtiKids program for children and their families, which aims at improving understanding, acceptance, and quality of life through better hearing.