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May W4H Article Meet Jeremy Michaels, Cochlear Implant Recipient and Walkathon Participant By Elizabeth Stump Jeremy

Michaels is a well-adjusted and social 15-year-old resident of Astoria, Queens, a straight-A student at his high school who enjoys hanging out with his friends, listening to music, and going to the movies. But what makes Jeremy’s accomplishments so special and further distinguishes him from among his adolescent peers is that he was born deaf — and now has a cochlear implant. Jeremy received therapy at the League for the Hard of Hearing and was aided as an infant with a body-worn FM; however, as his language acquisition plateaued and his hearing actually grew worse, his parents decided it was time for something radical. So at age two-and-a-half, Jeremy received a Clarion Cochlear Implant in his right ear, at the Manhattan, Eye, Ear, and Throat Hospital. (See sidebar, What is a Cochlear Implant?) His language acquisition shot up from 75 words prior to the implant (20 were understandable to the outside world) to over 300 words after a year of being implanted, and “by the time he hit first grade, he was holding conversations with his peers and was playing with Pokemon cards,” said his mother, Barbara Michaels. For their naturally outgoing and talkative son, Jeremy’s parents made a point of helping him develop his language and social skills so he’d understand idioms (e.g., “it’s raining cats and dogs”) and the playground games and latest trends of his friends. He has outgrown his embarrassment he felt during elementary school when the other children asked about the hearing device he wore, having learned to explain that it helps him hear. His family has always been behind him 100%: his younger sister, Jennifer, is his set of “ears” when he misses something, and early on his parents encouraged him to alert his classmates he is deaf and to stand up for himself. “We pushed him a lot and he’s come through with flying colors,” Barbara said. Jeremy recently graduated from Queens Lutheran School in Astoria, a very supportive environment, and is now thriving at Townsend Harris High School, which made the list for the top 100 high schools in the country. Although he has a teacher for the deaf and uses CART, the accommodating staff treats him like any other student and doesn’t focus on his hearing loss, for which Jeremy and his parents are grateful. It’s clear the implant has given him confidence, and his maturity and focus are evidence of all the hard work spent in therapy. While noisy environments and large groups still pose difficulty (he’s found that talking to one person at a time helps), Jeremy has learned to rely less on his lip-reading ability and more on his hearing. Captioning on the TV and in certain movie theaters really benefit him, as does the text messaging feature on his cell phone. So would the Michaels family recommend a cochlear implant for those who are eligible? You bet! The implant requires commitment and multiple follow-up visits with an audiologist so that the device is tuned and adjusted optimally, and currently Jeremy

goes twice a year. He’s done so well with only one implant that so far he’s passed on getting a cochlear implant in his other ear. And most importantly, Jeremy is happy the way he is and doesn’t see himself as different or closed off from others, he said. “Without the implant, I don't know where I'd be right now, but I'm pretty sure I wouldn't be doing as well as I am!” The Michaels family formed a team and will be happily walking at the Walk4Hearing, so say hello at the Walk to this young man and his proud supporters! ** What is a Cochlear Implant? This is an electronic device implanted surgically into the inner ear, for people who are profoundly deaf or severely hard of hearing. A cochlear implant does not amplify sound like a hearing aid, but bypasses the damaged parts of the inner ear by sending electrical impulses to the auditory nerve…which the brain then recognizes as sound. Sidebar: WALK4HEARING ESSENTIALS  We are getting a lot of interest from corporate sponsors, individuals, audiologists, hospital and college audiology departments, and schools for the deaf and hard of hearing. Thanks to old and new sponsors.  We hope all our members will want to form teams and walk for this important cause to raise awareness in NYC! Please save the date of Tuesday, September 2, for the Kickoff event at 6-8 PM at the Central Park Boathouse, to learn how to do this (see flyer).  Remember, you don’t have to walk the entire route; any part of it is okay! The 5K Walk distance equals 3.1 miles. Water will be provided, and medical assistance is available if necessary.  If you are not in a position to form a team (two or more people constitute a team), you can walk with City Slickers (contact Ellen at and/or make a contribution either online at and click on the New York, NY Walk or make a check payable to Walk4Hearing and give to Ellen Semel at a meeting or mail to her at Hearing Loss Association of America c/o Ellen Semel, 290 Ninth Avenue, Apt. 19G, New York, NY 10001. More formal invitations to the Kickoff will be sent later.  Call for volunteers! Anyone who wants to volunteer to help at the Kickoff and/or Walk, please contact Ellen Semel 212-989-0624 or We will need people to assemble material for the Kickoff and place decorations on tables and register guests as they arrive; we will need people at the Walk to distribute water, give out T-shirts, hats, register walkers, help direct people on the route, and give out information.

 Riverside Park, the site of the race, is located at …registration is at 9 AM, and the Walk begins at 10 AM. See you at the Walk!