Cookeville teen gets the gift of hearing after losing hearing aids in tornado



NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – The March 3rd tornado devastated neighborhoods and families from Donelson to Cookeville. Despite the losses, Middle Tennesseans have seen new beginnings since then.

A teenager with hearing loss was thrown from her house during the tornado and lost her hearing aids. Friday, she received a very special gift.

“It was just like at one minute I was in my bed, and the next, I was under the house,” said 16-year-old Ella Neal. An EF 4 tornado destroyed her home on Charlton Square in Central Putnam County.

Her neighbor found her under her house in his backyard. Neal was born with reverse- slope hearing loss and only able to pick-up on high pitches. “The only way that I knew that someone found me was like by the flashlights that were there, near the place that I was at,” Neal recalled.

Her hearing aids were among many things lost that night. For the last seven months, she’s has had temporary ones, but the pandemic has only made it especially difficult for her to adjust.

“I think after all of us had to start wearing masks… it was very difficult to understand what people were saying,” Neal explained. The good news; that’s changed.

Through the donations of Starkey Hearing Technologies and Nashville Audiologist Randi Yontz with Ascent Audiology & Hearing, Neal received custom-made Livio Edge Hearing Aids.

“It’s very clear,” Neal responded when she tried them on on Friday.

“It’s night and day difference,” Yontz told News 2. “Especially when they told me she was 16, I was like it’s going to be amazing because she’s gonna have the Bluetooth technology; she’s gonna be able to hear the phone calls in her ears, music.” He added, “School wise, especially now with everyone wearing masks and social distancing, being able to have the transcribe where if someone’s talking she can see the words, and it will come directly into her hearing aid. So, it’s going to giver her the most audibility she can get.”

“Oh my gosh! That would actually help me so much with notes,” Neal exclaimed when Yontz showed her the transcribing feature.

Aside from the gadgets like Google translate and tracking her steps, Neal is really looking forward to dancing.

“I do ballet. So, the classical music has very subtle music changes, and it’s not very dramatic at all,” Neal said. “Sometimes when I’m dancing, I have trouble with that, where as the other girls, they can hear the music cues, where as I probably have to have a physical music cue,” Neal explained.

“I’m just really excited,” she said. “I haven’t experienced something like this before.”

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