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Former Miss America Speaks on Early Intervention for Children with Hearing Loss

NEW YORK - Heather Whitestone McCallum, the first deaf woman to be crowned Miss America, visited New York on February 7 to address two professional conferences on the importance of early identification and early intervention for children with hearing loss. The conferences were "Controversial Issues in Pediatric Audiology" at Beth Israel Medical Center, and the "Network of Educators of Children With Cochlear Implants (NECCI) Conference" at Manhattan Eye, Ear & Throat Hospital.

Heather was in New York to stress the importance of identifying hearing problems shortly after birth and use of corrective measures as early as possible. She explained that early intervention can help children identify sounds and learn to listen and speak at the same rate as their hearing peers, better preparing them to mainstream in the hearing world.

Heather also found time to visit a two-year-old Romanian girl at Mt. Sinai Hospital, who was implanted that day with a Cochlear Nucleus 24 Contour', a component of the Cochlear Nucleus 3 system. The same implant system Heather was recently implanted with. Patricia Andreea Puia and her family came to New York from Western Romania to have the implant surgery. While in New York, Heather also met and visited with a few children at NYU Medical Center who had recently received cochlear implants.

Heather's story

At 18 months of age, Heather was rushed to the hospital with a dangerously high fever from the Haemophilus influenza virus. She was only hours from death when the doctors administered powerful antibiotics that saved her life. But several months later, Heather tested profoundly deaf in both ears. The doctors concluded that this was a result of the virus, the antibiotics or both.

Heather had been inspired by her family to work hard and never stop trying. Without an interpreter, she attended public school until she was 12 years old, and then enrolled in the Central Institute for the Deaf in St. Louis. In 1991, she graduated from public high school and went on to attend Jacksonville State University.

Since she was crowned Miss America, Heather has been traveling across the country giving motivational speeches to corporations, schools and government agencies about overcoming challenges to achieve your dreams. She served as a former executive board member on the Presidents Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities, and the National Institutes of Healths National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders Advisory Council. She also spearheaded the nations largest multimedia public service campaign to identify early hearing loss, and was a spokesperson for the Helen Keller Foundation for Research and Education. In addition, Heather has authored three books, Listening With My Heart, Believing The Promise and a third book, which is expected out in the fall.

About Cochlear Implants

Cochlear implants bypass damaged hair cells in the inner ear, providing useful hearing and improved communication to those who receive little or no benefit from hearing aids. The Cochlear Nucleus 3 system is the latest development in cochlear implant technology. The Cochlear Nucleus 3 system can be customized to meet the particular needs of recipients lifestyles and to maximize hearing performance. It is approved for use in profoundly deaf infants as young as 12 months of age and in adults with severe to profound hearing loss in both ears. In addition to the Cochlear Nucleus 24 Contour implant, the Nucleus 3 system includes:

  • A choice of two speech processors: ESPrit 3G, a speech processor worn behind the ear. The SPrint', a body worn speech processor.

Nucleus NRT' 3.0 (Neural Response Telemetry). Third Generation Neural Response Telemetry which provides information concerning the hearing nerves response to stimulation by the implant, and is particularly useful in very young children.


About Cochlear Americas

Denver-based Cochlear Americas is the U.S. headquarters for Cochlear Limited, the world leader in cochlear implant technology. Cochlear is a winner of the 2001 Medical Design Excellence Awards for its design of the Cochlear Nucleus 24 Contour' implant and the FDA Commissioners Special Citation for the development and commercialization of the Cochlear Nucleus 24 Multichannel Auditory Brainstem implant. To date, more than 45,000 people worldwide have received Cochlear Nucleus implants.

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