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April 27, 2007

Hearing loss can't stop this dedicated teacher

From: Louisville Courier-Journal - Louisville,KY,USA - Apr 27, 2007

Little chairs are pushed, yes, under little tables, down the hall from a restroom sized for little people.

The preschool seems about ready, at Christ United Methodist Church in Georgetown, Ind. Certainly its teacher is.

Angela Glotzbach had stopped teaching only because she had stopped hearing. Robbed of a sense, Glotzbach was robbed of a passion.

"I cried for about a week," she said. She recalled her sadness at my request. Glotzbach answered most every question the first time I asked. She hears again, but not yet as well as she long had.

Hearing in her right ear may be beyond hope. About one year ago, though, a cochlear implant returned miraculous function to Glotzbach's left ear. The device provides her sound clear and distinct, compared to the hearing aid on which she had depended.

"This is the Easter story right here," said Marvin Sweet, pastor of Christ United. "That implant gave her a new life."

Sweet helped, of course, agreeing eagerly to Glotzbach's idea that their church offer preschool beginning this fall. The church needed a jump start as did Glotzbach. "I didn't think I'd get to work with kids again," she said. "I used to apologize to mom and dad, who put out all that money."

She refers to the tuition that had enabled Glotzbach to learn to teach.

Glotzbach, of Floyds Knobs, is 35, a wife and mother of two with a smile matched only by her determination. She was a head teacher in the preschool at BridgePointe, in Clarksville, 10 years ago. Not having found a job in elementary school, she found luckily her niche readying youngsters for school. "They're sponges," she said of children that age.

Glotzbach was happy, was set, was ready to celebrate Christmas 1997. The morning of Christmas Eve, her husband, Keith Glotzbach, said something. It was like he was in the next county saying it. The problem raced from bad to worse. By about New Year's, she had but 4 percent hearing in her left ear.

That sadly mirrors how her right ear functions.

The nerves in her ear just went dead, just like that. Specialists couldn't lend much more explanation, yet some hope. Glotzbach was pregnant. Perhaps when she delivered, she again would hear. That happens.

It did not with her. "For some reason," she said, "I didn't think it was going to."

With a hearing aid, Glotzbach could hear noise amplified. In a preschool class, though, noise comes in bunches, in waves, and it pretty much smothered her. She felt inadequate to continue her career. Family and friends heroically treated her not as a victim, but as family and a friend. She did the best she could, doing all she could.

She hated how she couldn't take her children readily to the movies. She gave herself headaches trying to keep up with the chatter at bunco. "She has tried to live as a hearing person through this whole thing," said Janice Glotzbach, enough of an adoring mother-in-law to refer to Angela as Angel.

Angela Glotzbach waited for the kids -- Maci is 8 and Cory is 5 -- - to grow up a bit and for cochlear implant technology likewise to advance. Still, a risk was obvious, scary. To add her implant, Glotzbach was told, doctors essentially must remove her natural, residual hearing. An aid no longer could do any good, in other words.

"Once you make the decision, you stick with it," Glotzbach tried telling herself. "It was agonizing."

With the aid, she could hear 25 percent of normal. With the implant, possibly 60 percent. She decided.

Glotzbach underwent three hours of surgery in Louisville. Simply put -- and these implants are not the least bit simple -- an electronic device has been inserted under her scalp. We're talking a processor, a transmitter, Radio Shack parts such as that. The procedure is not routine but seems en route to becoming so.

Everybody sounded like Donald Duck at first. But before long, everybody sounded better. Glotzbach had to adjust and still must. She can hear her daughter sing, though, a heavenly sound for this mother. "I can't believe how well the understanding has been," she said.

Or as her husband puts it, "A lot of people don't even know she has the implant."

And soon, Angela Glotzbach again will teach. She signed up the preschool's first student, mother Suzanne Rogers made aware of the inspiration that is her daughter's teacher.

"An amazing story," Rogers said.

"She's ready," Janice Glotzbach said of her daughter-in-law. "She is ready."

The church is at 1618 Canal Lane. There will be classes for ages 3-5. For more preschool information, call 951-2660.

Dale Moss ' column appears on Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Reach him at (812) 949-4026 or Comment on this column, and read his blog and previous columns, at

© 2007 Louisville Courier-Journal