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June 3, 2004

Can you hear me now?

From: Yuma Sun, Az - Jun 3, 2004

BY JACOB LOPEZ, Staff Writer Jun 3, 2004

SAN LUIS RIO COLORADO, Son. — The school bell caught Victor Manuel Sanchez's attention Wednesday morning for the first time in a year.

He looked at his mom and nodded with joy that he had just heard the sound. This happened minutes after he was fitted with a set of donated, high-powered hearing aids at the Mexican handicapped school called Centro de Atencion Multiple No. 10.

Later, he smiled from ear to ear when he recognized the sound of an ambulance siren passing by on one of San Luis Rio Colorado's busy streets.

Victor, 11, was one of 32 hearing-impaired children and adults who were fitted with hearing aids that would've cost about $100,000 to do professionally in the states, said Sherry Appleby, owner of Hearing Aid Specialists in Yuma. Appleby and her staff made a special trip to San Luis Wednesday to fit the 32 who would benefit from hearing aids.

Victor had been fitted with hearing aids four years earlier by the same group of Yuma philanthropists. As a result, he developed his reading, talking and comprehension skills because the hearing aids enabled him to do so.

"When I was a smaller, I could not hear," Victor said. "With the hearing aids, I can hear a little more. And now, I can talk more."

But over the past year, his learning slowed because the hearing aids had stopped working, said his mother Obdulia Zaragoza.

"He regresses in school when he doesn't have hearing aids," Zaragoza said. "But when he has hearing aids, he advances more in school and in his speech."

Appleby said she thinks Victor can use his skills to help deaf children someday.

"I hope he will go on to be a teacher," Appleby said. "He's proficient in sign. He can speak. He can communicate with these children. And as he gets older, he would be perfect to come back and teach these children."

Appleby said hearing aids enable Victor and the others to hear, but it takes a while for them to identify exactly what they are hearing because they are not accustomed to the hearing world.

"These children are hearing now, but recognizing what they hear are two different things," Appleby said. "Because when you've been away from the hearing world and all of a sudden it is given back to you, it's hard to decide what sounds belong with what."

The high-powered, analog hearing aids were donated by the largest manufacturers of hearing aids in the world, Starkey Laboratories Inc., which also supplied the hearing aids four years ago. Appleby said if she were to fit one child with a set of those hearing aids, it would cost about $4,000.

Silvia Mayorquin said her 12-year-old daughter, Ruht Nohemi, can only say "mama" and "papa." But now Mayorquin hopes her daughter can develop her communication skills and eventually go to a regular school.

"I am thankful that they donated these hearing aids," Mayorquin said. "Since we have a minimal income, it's very difficult to get these hearing aids in Mexico."

Carmen Aviles Osorio, a hearing-impaired teacher at the school, said one of the concerns the school had was how the families would be able to afford batteries for the hearing aids. She said she was thankful because each child was provided with 100 batteries, which willlast about a year.

Helping these children learn and advance their skills is very rewarding to Osorio as a teacher, she said. But seeing them be able to hear sounds that they've never heard before and identify with a completely different world, makes her job twice as rewarding.

"It's the best they've been able to have all their lives," Osorio said. "This is the way they can function in society. This is something they have always hoped for."


Jacob Lopez can be reached at or 539-6872.

Copyright, The Sun, a Freedom Newspapers of Southwestern Arizona company. All rights reserved.