Teen is giving the gift of hearing to deaf children – USA TODAY
PALO ALTO, Calif. Ã¢Â€Â“ Grace OÃ¢Â€Â™Brien is 18 years old and has already changed the lives ofÃ‚Â hundreds of deaf children.
Ã¢Â€ÂœAs soon as he put on the hearing aid, his whole face just lit up,Ã¢Â€Â said OÃ¢Â€Â™Brien, founder of Ears for Years, Inc., a non-profit organization that distributes solar-powered hearing aids to deaf children in developing countries. Ã¢Â€ÂœYou could just see in his eyes that something had changed.Ã¢Â€Â
At the young age of 14, OÃ¢Â€Â™Brien knew she was destined to help children around the world. Her father had been suffering from hearing loss due to a brain tumor.Ã‚Â Ã¢Â€ÂœI became interested in the issue,Ã¢Â€Â she said.
In 2012, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that 360 million people experienced disabling hearing loss of which 32 million were children. WHO also estimated Ã¢Â€Âœthe prevalence of disabling hearing loss in children is greatest in South Asia, Asia Pacific and Sub-Saharan Africa.Ã¢Â€Â
Ã¢Â€ÂœHearing aid batteries cost about a dollar a week,Ã¢Â€Â OÃ¢Â€Â™Brien said. Ã¢Â€ÂœFor some families that could be their salary for the week.Ã¢Â€Â She searched high and low for a sustainable solution and found Solar Ear, a Brazil-based company that developed solar-powered hearing aids. The battery takes approximately two hours to recharge by harnessing energy from the sun or a light bulb.
OÃ¢Â€Â™Brien recalled the first time she fit a child with the hearing aid. He was a 3-year-old boy in Mexico. Ã¢Â€ÂœThis tiny little thing,Ã¢Â€Â she said. Ã¢Â€ÂœHis mom was right beside me and she started crying. You could just feel the emotion in the room,Ã¢Â€Â she remembered.
She has traveled to Mexico, Sri Lanka, Honduras, Nicaragua and South Korea fitting children with these hearing aids. Ã¢Â€ÂœThis hearing aid is giving them a chance to escape poverty. ItÃ¢Â€Â™s giving them the chance to get a valid education and I think thatÃ¢Â€Â™s really amazing,Ã¢Â€Â she said.
OÃ¢Â€Â™Brien is currently a freshman at Stanford University and was among the 2015 winners of the Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes, an honor awarded to 25 young leaders ages 8 to 18 years who Ã¢Â€Âœhave made a significant positive impact on people, their communitiesÃ‚Â and the environment.Ã¢Â€Â
Ã¢Â€ÂœIt was so amazing to see that in that moment, I had done something that would make a difference in somebody elseÃ¢Â€Â™s life,Ã¢Â€Â OÃ¢Â€Â™Brien said.
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