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Better hearing

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Woman wants to give back to deaf students

By John Barnhart

    Thanks to the Foundation for Sight and Sound and the foundation’s manufacturing partner, ReSound, Marianna Atwell, a freshman at Liberty University (LU), received a pair of the company’s top-of-the-line smart hearing aids.

    These hearing aids normally cost $6,000, but Atwell got them for free.
    Atwell is currently a math major but she plans to alter her program to math  special education.
    “I want to teach math to deaf kids,” she said.
    Being a hearing impaired student in a math class is something she’s familiar with. When she was 2, she twice got a fever of 105 degrees. The two bouts of fever left her with a severe hearing loss.
    Atwell has worn hearing aids most of her life. She got the ones she was wearing before she got the ReSound aids when she was 11 and the age of these hearing aids is one factor that led to her receiving this gift.
    The ball started rolling when a classmate found out about Sight and Sounds’ hearing aid financial aid program and Atwell applied.
    Atwell has not let her hearing problem stop her, although some events proved to be a challenge such as  being in color guard in her high school marching band.
    She knows the challenges a student with hearing problems can face in a math class. For example, it can be hard to hear a teacher if he turns his back to the class while talking. Fortunately, Atwell knows sign language and she’s had sign language interpreters. She’s had a special advantage at LU because the university offers a major in American Sign Language, so there are lots of fellow students who are glad for an opportunity to use what they are learning.
    Teaching math to deaf students will let her use her love of math and her personal knowledge of what deaf and hard of hearing kids deal with to help them. She said her own hearing problem makes her aware of things that other people wouldn’t think of.
    She has a long road ahead of her. She will need a master’s degree to do what she plans to do.
    Atwell was fitted with her new hearing aids at SML Hearing Center in Moneta.
    “These hearing aids are definitely helping,” she said.
    They also have an iPhone app that allows Atwell to adjust them with her smartphone.
    Atwell was glad she could go to SML Hearing to be fitted for the hearing aids,
    “They were trying to send me to Charlottesville,” she said.
    That changed when Marianna explained how far Charlottesville is from here.
    Paying for hearing aids is usually an out of pocket expense for people who need them. Lisa McArdle, who owns SML Hearing, said very few insurances will pay for them.