HURON, SD -
After major budget cuts to the South Dakota School for the Deaf, enrollment has dropped to just five students. But that doesn't mean the need has disappeared along with the funding.
Children in communities across the state are still dealing with partial or full hearing loss. But the school has come up with a new way to provide these much-needed services.
For a kid who was born without hearing, Kamaron Christensen of Huron is quite the musician.
"By breaking some notes out, putting other notes in so I can do smooth and hard-core, could have an awesome song," Kamaron said.
Kamaron still struggles to hear sometimes, though you'd never know it by looking at him. Instead of producing wax, his ears produce a tar-like substance that constantly threatens to clog up his ear drums. He's had five surgeries; his mom Kristle says the first was when he was only nine months old.
"After they brought him back after his first surgery because, it's kind of like a gum, when they slammed the door at Sioux Valley he jumped for the first time,” Kristle said. “We all started crying, and we knew we had hope."
Now, at eight-years-old, Kamaron has adult tubes in his ears and needs to get them checked every three months to make sure they're working properly.
"First the doctor checks my ears to see if there's wax or not so we could have medicine to stop the wax," Kam said.
The Christensens would have to travel hundreds of miles from Huron to Sioux Falls and back for tests. Last year, the family made the trip four different times.
"Which insurance paid for one," Kristle said.
Now, the School for the Deaf has a new mobile lab, which travels to different communities. Audiologists can perform several tests right here and even do comprehensive screenings.
"Students have to miss school to come to Sioux Falls, so we decided this would be a good opportunity to take those same services out across the state," audiologist Greg King said.
"The 20-30 minutes we spend out there to have the audiogram and tympanic and all that done to make sure the tubes are functioning correctly, we're able to do here in Huron," Kristle said.
The School for the Deaf has 12 outreach consultants who travel the state, and officials are able to see more students and catch more problems than ever before.
"If it's a hearing loss that's more medically-involved, we'll refer to the local family physician to take care of," King said.
Kamaron will need new tubes in a few years, and one day, he may lose his hearing completely.
"You're constantly putting holes in the ear drums and that scar tissue builds up,” Kristle said. “It's just something we have to deal with, don't we Kam?"
But it's possible that day will never come. Kamaron's already made more progress than anyone imagined, and he's not about to give up now.
"I did have to go through some stuff, but we always won the battle for hearing and we always will," Kamaron said.
Kristle says if the South Dakota School for the Deaf mobile lab comes to your community, take advantage. Even a small problem needs to be fixed.
"We are so fortunate Kam was caught early. We could've had a total hearing loss. Please reach out. It's free for the state, contact somebody and have it checked," Kristle said.
SDSD Outreach Program
SDSD Mobile Lab
Fall 2010 Screening Schedule
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