Hiking for hearing

Lantana resident Ryan Roberts recently received the opportunity to see one of the seven natural wonders of the world and appreciate something very dear to him at the same time.

The 20-year old North Central Texas College student was selected to receive a scholarship that will allow him to visit the Grand Canyon in early August and collect sound data for an online campaign to educate the public about hearing and hearing loss.

Roberts was born with a rare genetic condition called Larsen syndrome. It is characterized by multiple dislocated joints, short stature and other physical limitations, along with moderate hearing loss.

“I am very fortunate to be able to participate in the program,” Roberts said. “I have never been to the Grand Canyon or Arizona, so I am excited about seeing the beautiful scenery and interesting wildlife I have been reading about.”

Jennifer Kohanim, spokesperson for Hear the World Sound Academy, said this opportunity is only for a select number of students.

“The Hear the World Sound Academy program brings 17 students of mixed hearing abilities (most with varying degrees of hearing loss) together to explore the role that sounds plays in our lives,” Kohanim said.

Roberts was nominated by his audiologist Lana Ward and received a scholarship for the program by Irene Jones of Jones Audiology.

Roberts said he will be taking part in a number of activities on the trip.

“As I understand it, we will be rafting down the Colorado River, taking daily hikes, and exploring the sights and wonders of the Grand Canyon,” Roberts said. “We will camp out each night along the way.

“We will be ‘roughing it,’ but will have guides along the way.  It is an educational trip, and we are ambassadors for Hear the World, the sponsors of the program, so we will talk about raising awareness of hearing loss and learning ways to cope with it.”

Roberts said it is his own experience with hearing loss that makes him want to educate others.

“I have moderate hearing loss, and I got my hearing aids when I was 12,” Roberts said. “I couldn’t believe the difference they made.   When I don’t have my hearing aids functioning, there is so much that I miss.  It is hard to hear simple things such as the TV or people talking.

“It is hard to hear teachers at school, and I am always asking people to repeat themselves. I know it is irritating to them so I just guess at what they say or try to read their lips most of the time.   I am so thankful for the hearing aid device that has made it possible for me to hear more normally.”

Kohanim said she hopes that Roberts takes a couple of things away from this experience.

“We hope that Ryan and all of the students come out of the program looking at sound as a precious resource, and hearing as a cherished sense,” Kohanim said. “We hope they return home with the knowledge and passion to educate their local communities about the importance of hearing and sound.

“Most importantly, we hope they learn important leadership skills to really become the next generation of hearing ambassadors that can raise awareness about hearing loss, its consequences, and the solutions available to address it.”

Visit www.hear-the-world.com for more information.

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