Tuesday,
September 30, 2014

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Callier Center Gives 5-Year-Old Purity Macharia the Gift of Hearing

Dr. Shawna Jackson, an audiologist at the Callier Center for Communication Disorders, works with Purity Macharia. The video can also be viewed on YouTube.

Imagine trying to hear a conversation through heavy-industrial earmuffs — the kind used for jack-hammering or hunting.

The noise may reach your ears, but understanding speech is nearly impossible.

For one young girl, this kind of muffled and unintelligible noise was her reality. Born with a medical condition called congenital aural atresia with microtia, Purity Macharia, 5, has malformed outer ears. The opening to the ear canal — the tunnel which allows sound to travel to the middle and inner ear — is completely closed. Her inner ear is perfectly healthy and capable of receiving sound.

“It has been estimated that 1 in 10,000 to 20,000 people will be born with this type of medical condition,” said Dr. Jeffrey Martin, clinical assistant professor in the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences and head of audiology at the Callier Center for Communication Disorders, where Purity is a patient. “In Purity’s case, the direct pathway for speech to reach the inner ear is simply obstructed.”

Fortunately, there are wearable hearing devices that bypass the outer ear structures and transmit sound directly to the inner ear by vibrating the skull.

Purity Macharia

Purity Macharia, who was born with malformed outer ears, is shown wearing her old hearing device, which was prone to breaking and had inferior software that affected her speech.

“These hearing aids work on the bone conduction of sound,” Martin said.

Purity had an older version of this device that was prone to breaking and had two-decades-old software. The poor quality of the hearing provided was noticeable in her speech development. When the device broke, as it often did, it would take weeks to repair. Although her father is fully employed as a commercial truck driver, the family could not afford replacement devices, which cost about $5,000 each.

“Prior to receiving the new device, Purity’s speech included many articulation errors — mostly deleting or substituting high-frequency consonant sounds like ‘s’ and ‘th’,” said Dr. Shawna Jackson, the audiologist working with Purity.

Thanks to the Callier Care Fund, Purity was given a brand new Oticon Ponto Pro hearing aid last October with the capability to filter out noise and provide clearer sounds. A recent manufacturer’s upgrade has given Purity’s device Bluetooth capabilities. The new capabilities allow Purity to talk with her father on the phone remotely, connect directly to her school's FM system in class and receive clear communications from her teachers.

After just four months with the new device, her speech improvement was remarkable. She was not only talking with more confidence, the clarity of her speech was apparent even with difficult-to-pronounce words. The improvement she made with the device was beyond all expectations.

Dr. Shawna Jackson,
audiologist at the Callier Center for Communication Disorders

“After just four months with the new device, her speech improvement was remarkable,” Jackson said. “She was not only talking with more confidence, the clarity of her speech was apparent even with difficult-to-pronounce words. The improvement she made with the device was beyond all expectations.”

The Callier Care Fund provides assistance to children and adults with hearing, speech and language disorders regardless of their income, insurance or socioeconomic background. Created by Ruth and Ken Altshuler, the Callier Care Fund relies on donations to provide assistance and services.

“[The Callier Center] has been there for us since the first day,” said Mary Mwaura, Purity’s mother. “She was little and we came here and they tested her and, since then, they’ve been there for us, helping us with the resources. It’s a lot of stress — a load taken off.”

In addition to bringing the gift of hearing and speech to a little girl, the efforts of the Callier Center and the Callier Care Fund have given Purity the ability to do what she loves best — dance to her favorite music.

For more information about the Callier Care Fund or to make a gift, please contact Shanon Patrick by phone at 214-905-3084 or by email at Shanon.Patrick@utdallas.edu.

Media Contact: Ben Porter, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2193, ben.porter@utdallas.edu
or the Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, newscenter@utdallas.edu.


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