Jennifer Paul’s Not-So Silent Journey

Born with hearing defects to both ears, Jennifer Paul, with the help of HEAR, has grown up to be a successful bi-lingual social worker

Wednesday, June 5, 2013 | 3:13 pm

When a baby girl is diagnosed to be deaf her whole life, who would think she would grow up to live a normal life, learning two languages to boot?

The HEAR Center knows, and Jennifer Paul is living proof.

“I was born in Mexico in 1964 without bilateral atresia, which means I have no external ear and there’s no ear canal, [they told me] when I was born that I could not hear,” says Jennifer Paul.

The doctor in charge of Paul’s development referred her parents to an otologist named Dr. Asch, who then referred the case to the HEAR Center after hearing Dr. Griffiths speak on the use of hearing aids to infants.

Coming to LA, Paul was tested in the center’s sound room and was equipped with hearing aids the day she arrived.

“When parents has kids in the situation like that, it’s a very stressful thing and you may not do anything, you don’t know what to do, you don’t have the resources, the capacity to research, etc., you can lose your first year without any assistance and that year of life is very important for the infant to listen to language,” says Paul.

Which made the HEAR Center’s efforts to assist Paul at a tender 3 months of age crucial. “That’s when they’re learning their language. So it has to be done very soon. Even though I didn’t have ears and I didn’t have an ear canal, I can hear with hearing aids because I hear through the bone,” Paul explains.

Paul continues, “it has to be done young because if you get hearing aids later on, your speech will never be the same because you’ve lost that first year of listening.”

Paul had a first-hand glimpse on what these speech difficulties are like when she worked at the Lexington School for the deaf.

The kids in the school are fluent in sign language, but the “Lexington School for the Deaf’s philosophy is to try to get these kids to speak,” says Paul.

“So a lot of these kids wore hearing aids but their speech was quite delayed. I don’t think it fairly affected their comprehension it’s just the ability to speak,” Paul adds.

Looking back, Paul believes that without the HEAR Center’s help, “I wouldn’t have had hearing aids as an infant, so I would not have learned to hear and speak like every else would have and therefore I think I’d live a very isolated life.”

With the help of HEAR Center though, Paul has been able to live a normal life, learning not just one, but two languages. Having an American dad and a Mexican mother helped with her bi-lingual development.

“My dad never spoke to me in Spanish, so there was English in my life from the very beginning. My mother always spoke to me in Spanish and I was in Mexico where my aunt and cousins [live], there’s also Spanish. So I had both languages,” says Paul.

Paul feels very blessed with how things turned out, “In a different situation they would have said, ‘Just do one language for this child because you’re lucky if she’s going to speak one language,’” she says. But as fate would have it, she has two.

After a stay of three weeks, all the while monitoring her improvement, Paul was released to live a normal life as a HEAR angel.

For more information about HEAR Center, visit www.hearcenter.org.

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