Breaking the Sounds of Silence – teacher, community work to give hearing | TahoeDailyTribune.com
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Breaking the Sounds of Silence – teacher, community work to give hearing

Alan Manzano is a good listener.

As a first-grader at Zephyr Cove Elementary School, he welcomes the voices of others – a sound he could not hear for more than three years.

Born in Mexico, Alan entered Konnie Susich’s kindergarten class last fall. Speaking little Spanish and no English, he seldom responded in class. Susich later learned the boy was struggling with much more than a language barrier.



When Alan did not pass a required school hearing test, Susich and Andrea Olsen, Douglas County School District speech pathologist, realized he was at least partially deaf.

Olsen made an appointment with professor Dennis Uken at the University of Nevada, Reno’s Department of Speech and Audiology. Two UNR evaluations revealed Alan had a bilateral, mid- to high-frequency sensory hearing loss. He needed hearing aids.




“We found out there was a hearing loss and that he probably had not been hearing since age 3,” Olsen said. “Another thing that led us to believe it, was he was really language-delayed in both English and Spanish. After we took him to UNR, the next thing to do was find out how to get Alan hearing aids.”

Olsen contacted George Liddell, a member of Sertoma International, a nonprofit service club focused on speech and hearing.

“Andrea Olsen called me and told me the situation and I said, ‘Sure we can work something out,’ and so I made sure Alan got his hearing test and then I went to the (Sertoma) board,” said Liddell, a member of Carson Valley Sertoma, located in Gardnerville. “If someone needs a hearing aid and they cannot afford it, they can contact me.”

Sertoma bought two hearing aids for Alan, a donation worth almost $1,500. But he is still growing, so the hearing aids frequently need to be altered to fit his ear.

“We will also be paying for refitting them,” Liddell said. “And he needs testing. Part of the testing is paid for by Sertoma and part of the cost is donated by the doctors and audiologist at Sierra Nevada ENT.”

Alan’s hearing is tested at Sierra Nevada ENT Associates, where Drs. Paul Manoukian, Brian Romaneschi and Nanci Szatmary, volunteer their time and expertise.

“We donate our time to see the patient,” said Szatmary, a doctor of audiology. “Ideally, we’d like to see Alan once a month because he’s growing so much right now. He is doing well. We want to make sure he is still able to have success in his education and language development. We want to give him the best chance to succeed that we can.”

Numerous people throughout the community and school district have been instrumental to Alan’s progress, said Olsen.

“I’m so happy we were able to identify his (problem), and we had community support and school support. So many people have been involved,” she said. “Through many visits to Sierra Nevada ENT, Nanci (Szatmary) was a big help. She has a very good way with children and I really want to credit her for her rapport with both Alan and his family.”

While at school, Alan also uses a special FM system called the Easy Listener, which hooks into his hearing aids.

“His teacher, Mrs. Shipman, wears a microphone and Alan wears adapters coming from the hearing aids, which plug into his receiver,” Olsen said.

Before his hearing aids arrived last year, UNR sent Susich a similar device designed to enhance high-frequency tones.

“When he first had the headset on and I had the mic on, I turned it on and I said, ‘Alan, can you hear me?’ His eyes just lit up,” Susich said. “He smiled and said, ‘yes.’ When he could hear that first time, it was like the sky opened up and the sun came out. It opened up a whole world for him.”

Susich was modest about her part in Alan’s intervention, but said she is proud of him and glad she could help.

“That’s one of those things you remember as one of your successes,” she said. “It made me so excited. You can’t imagine not hearing and then hearing all of a sudden. I think he will do famously now that he can hear.”

Alan is learning to hook up his Easy Listener and turn it off by himself. He also tests his own hearing aids each morning when he gets to school.

“He is doing great,” Olsen said. “His participation in class has increased and his interactions with other students have been more positive. This is a whole new world for him, a world of sound and it has made all of the difference.”

For information as to what types of hearing and speech assistance Sertoma International has to offer, contact George Liddell at (775) 883-2803.


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