August 14th, 2012
10:00 AM ET

8-year-old writes book on hearing loss

Editor's note: In the Human Factor, we profile survivors who have overcome the odds. Confronting a life obstacle – injury, illness or other hardship – they tapped their inner strength and found resilience they didn't know they possessed. Samantha Brownlie was diagnosed with nonsyndromic sensorineural bilateral hearing loss when she was 3 years old.

Hi, my name is Samantha. I'm 8 years old. I have an older brother named Sean. Me and my family live in New York City. I go to P.S. 3 in Manhattan.

Sean and I were born with hearing loss. We both wear hearing aids. It's not that hard to get used to wearing hearing aids. All you need to do is think of good things and then you put it in your ear and you hear better. That's all there is to it!

My mom or dad used to put my hearing aids in but now I'm old enough to do it by myself.

I really like my hearing aids because I can hear so much better with them. I used to wear one hearing aid and now I wear two. They are pink and blue!

Last year when I was still wearing one hearing aid I wrote a book called "Samantha's Fun FM Unit and Hearing Aid Book." I wrote it to explain why I wear a hearing aid and an FM Unit in school. And I also made the book for kids or adults that have hearing loss too. I want them to feel the same way about their hearing aids that I do!

My book is also about how to take care of hearing aids, how to use them and how to change the batteries, recharge the FM and tell the teacher how to use the transmitter.

On the cover of my book, I drew pictures of me and fun things like my scooter, my FM transmitter, candy and a Nintendo DS game.

My parents inspired me a lot because they have always told me that I should be proud of who I am and just be myself. Many people including my classmates and teachers don't know that much about hearing loss. I thought if I made a book with pictures it would help them understand hearing loss better and answer some of their questions.

On the outside you see a little girl that's 8 years old, but on the inside there is a good strong heart. And I believe I can do anything, as long as I believe in myself.

Hearing loss an 'invisible,' and widely uninsured, problem

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soundoff (70 Responses)
  1. Michael

    The mom's pretty hot!

    August 14, 2012 at 12:05 | Report abuse | Reply
    • KPTLD

      What is wrong with you? Commenting like that on the mother when both of her children are hearing impaired!

      August 14, 2012 at 15:03 | Report abuse |
    • Michael

      KPTLD: What's wrong with what I said? Ok, fine "the mom's frumpy–after all, both of her kids are hearing impaired." Is that more appropriate?

      August 15, 2012 at 11:34 | Report abuse |
    • Tutut

      Katherine Greenough – Oh Melissa these are SOOOOOOOOO good!!! Brought tears to our eyes looking tuoghrh the pictures. I know she's only three weeks old but it seems to go by so fast! Thank you for helping us capture these precious moments!

      September 11, 2012 at 17:23 | Report abuse |
  2. Lisa

    I wore hearing aids from the ages of 3 to 17. I'm now 7 years old. I'm married mother of two children, both of whom are hearing. I work for Boeing and use sign language interpreter services full time.

    That being said, this article caught my attention. I have mixed feelings towards the tone of this article. On one hand, I'm happy that this little girl is at peace with her situation. On the other hand, I feel irritated about how hearing aids are stressed as very important in the quality of ones life. I have lived a very colorful life, and continue to do so (sans hearing aid for the last 20 years). Being deaf is not a defect as many people seem to think. Being deaf shapes ones personality and mindset, yes. But it doesn't have to take away anything good that life has to offer. Bottom line: I don't need hearing aids to prove my worth to others or to experience that same level of enjoyment hearing people do. I don't need to try and be "hearing" just so that I can fit into the hearing world. I am me. And I happen to be deaf.

    Just the same, if this little girl is happy with wearing and using hearing aids, then I'm happy for her. To each his/her own.

    August 14, 2012 at 16:59 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Lisa

      *37*, not 7.

      August 14, 2012 at 17:00 | Report abuse |
    • Esh

      It's great that you're comfortable with yourself. That's very important in life. Do you pay for a full-time sign interpreter? That must be pretty expensive. If you don't pay for it, who does? How do you communicate with your children's teachers or other hearing people? Just curious. I'm all for people making their own choices in life as long as people take responsibility for those choices.

      August 15, 2012 at 13:09 | Report abuse |
    • Lisa

      To Esh,

      In America, there's a law called the ADA law that covers my right to access to sign language interpreters in certain places. Google ADA law. The company I work for receives generous tax writeoffs for providing me interpreters.

      As for how I communicate, that's easy, I write, I sign, I use my voice Granted, my speech isn't clear or concise. But my mind is as sharp as the next person's. I'm not some helpless creature just because I don't wear hearing aids. That's a huge misconception the hearing public tragically holds even to this day. Deaf AND Dumb.

      I carry my presence with a sense that I deserve to operate in this world just as much as my hearing peers, even without hearing aids.

      Sign language is the Deaf's FIRST and FOREMOST language. To deny access to an enlightening world based on ability or inability hear is discriminatory at worse and ignorance at best. Why is that we encourage our hearing babies to sign but we wince at the thought of teaching our deaf babies to sign? That's like telling a blind person to see more.

      Sign language is a deaf child's most important foundation and platform from where they can expand their linguistic skills as they get older.

      Now, as a small child, I wore hearing aids and learned how to speak AND how to sign simultaneously. While learning how to speak enabled me to appear "hearing" and be more accepted amongst my hearing peers, learning sign language is what opened many doors to the fun and artful world of language.

      Since I discarded my hearing aids at the age of 17, my speech has deteriorated considerably. But my mind remains as sharp as ever, if not sharper. The acomplishments I have made in the last 20 years sans hearing aids is proof that the ability to hear and/or speak clearly is NOT the benchmark by which we measure our worth.

      I no longer wish to try and pretend to be "hearing". I've spent the first 17 years of my life trying in vain and only failing. An accident that took the rest of my hearing away served as a wakeup call for me. I know now that I have a right to identify myself as DEAF without feelngs of shame or embarrassment or guilt. I contribute to the society I live in by working full time, paying my taxes, refusing to go on disability welfare (which I feel too many deaf people abuse), and helping raise two beautiful hearing children with my hard of hearing husband.

      I will not be shamed for being DEAF. I will not be made to feel incomplete or like I have a defect. I am me. And I happen to be deaf.

      August 15, 2012 at 15:50 | Report abuse |
    • Devin

      Con esa gre1fica hasta es me1s creedble la imagen. La Helvetica es una futene limpia, clara, sencilla y decidida y que logra llevar la atencif3n en la imagen. no en los textos.Muy interesante el post, pense9 que solo yo era el rayado que le hallaba defectos a los tedtulos de los programas de TV.

      September 14, 2012 at 01:00 | Report abuse |
  3. Lidia Best

    Inspirational but CNN, what a shame not to help other kids hear what she says!
    CNN has just failed the whole understanding what this little girl wanted to share 🙁

    August 14, 2012 at 17:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. C. Billups

    We might need to add this to our local HLA chapter library.

    August 14, 2012 at 20:41 | Report abuse | Reply
    • C. Billups


      August 14, 2012 at 20:42 | Report abuse |
  5. C. Billups


    August 14, 2012 at 20:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. justinsandiego

    I thought the story about the little girl and her accomplishments was awesome. However, I didn't appreciate the mother and announcer's insinuation that there's anything wrong with being "disabled." I'm diseased and disabled, it's just a fact of life (and yes, people that wear corrective eyeglasses do suffer from a degree of visual disability too), nothing to be ashamed of.

    August 15, 2012 at 08:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. JIm8

    I had a brush with hearing loss and learned a lot. I had Tinnitus, which is really awful.

    It was diagnosed as "Long Term Hearing Loss," and was told there is nothing i can do, "buy a hearing aid, and get used to it" was what two ENTs told me.

    Only problem is that I had hearing tests from prior years (that the ENTs refused to consider) that showed my hearing as excellent as recently as two years earlier. But both doctors agreed, I can't do anything.

    So I tried taking the doctor's advise, spent $2500 on a hearing aid, and resolved to do the best I could with the tinnitus.

    Fortunately for me, the audiologist who took the two hearing tests for the two ENTs saw a fluctuation in the results, and went to bat for me. Eventually I saw another doctor who agreed to look at my prior tests, and sent me to the House Clinic in Los Angeles.

    The doctor at House told me "Let's try something that costs nothing and might work, a low sodium diet and diuretics. It worked. It took two years, but my hearing today mirrors the test results that two doctors refused to look at, all ranges og hearing are excellent, and the tinnitus is no longer a concern. My expensive hearing aid is in the drawer.

    My last appointment with a competent ENT told me, "Congratulations, you beat sudden hearing loss, few people do." I know why, it's often misdiagnosed and you are told to "Just get used to it."

    I am no longer on a low sodium diet, but am aware of what too much salt in your diet can do.

    We all need a record of our hearing so that we can tell the difference between long term hearing loss, which is untreatable, and sudden hearing loss, which can be beaten.

    August 15, 2012 at 11:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. JGN

    So many people sniping at each other! And even a person who is snippy about this little girl wearing a hearing aide so she can communicate with her peers. Yes it IS abnormal not to hear, or see, or walk. Abnormal because the human norm is to do those things. This is not shameful or BAD, but to deny that it's abnormal and you might want to find a fix for it is just stupid.
    I couldn't hear from the ages of 7 to 9 years, and the only thing I could do almost 50 years ago to cope with it was to learn all by myself how to read lips. But it did NOT make it easy to relate to others, to make friends, and I was grateful when my hearing loss started to correct itself after my 9 year old summer. We need to find more medical treatments for hearing and sight loss, not stand around preaching that there is 'nothing wrong with it'.

    August 15, 2012 at 12:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Shannon

    I thought it was great she wrote a book about her hearing loss/aids. She accepts the fact she is hard of hearing. I have been wearing hearing aids since the age of 4. Now 25 yrs old. I must say growing up in a public school was difficult since many people did not understand what it was like to be hearing impaired. But I have learned that people who are not accepting, are NOT worth having in your life. My family was extremely supportive and most of my teachers were as well. I have had people who thought I would not make it. I proved them wrong. This young girl and boy will do the same and they have wonderful parents who will support them which is KEY.

    August 15, 2012 at 13:06 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Vikas

      dire9, me meted al instante a The Designers Republic y hued en cosa de segdouns presumo que fue a coposito para ensef1arnos el concepto funcional (enserio).Apoyareda la mocif3n sobre la funcif3n habilidad . solo si pudiera olvidar unas antiguas web del tiempo cuando flash imperaba en la web y llegue a paginas que sin ser funcional me emocionaron asta las lagrimas al mas estilo de los buenos menfas de DVD (para aya se fue la inspiracif3n del flash).Y antes que se me acabe la pila del portatil . mejor sigo actualizado mi pobre web de gato, un ejemplo de mala funcif3n habilidad, pero se biene se biene en joombla

      September 14, 2012 at 00:22 | Report abuse |
  10. Say What

    Never heard of it.

    August 15, 2012 at 16:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. corky2002

    Good for Samantha - this is awesome and will help so many children! CNN - please enable captioning of this video so that people with hearing loss can enjoy this story!

    August 18, 2012 at 17:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Brandon McBride

    Good for her – I agree. I'm glad we're drawing attention to something like this.

    August 20, 2012 at 16:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. chaoticidealism

    Eight years old and already an author! You go for it, kiddo. Writing rocks! In another ten years I'll be looking for you on the bestseller list.

    August 23, 2012 at 15:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Steve

    I covered the story of Samantha's book on my blog (www.hearingaidknow.com) a year or so ago when she made it, it's great to see that she's getting a bigger audience on sites like CNN as she has a great story to tell and is inspiring to others with hearing loss – inspiring not just to kids but to us adults with hearing loss as well. Too many of us try to hide our hearing loss and we make life more difficult for ourselves by doing so. Great to see Samantha and he brother showing us that it really isn't a big deal and we should concentrate on all the things we are good at rather than worry about that one thing we are not so good at.

    August 29, 2012 at 19:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Leslie Caldwell

    It bothers me that new sites continue to cover these stories without providing the captioning necessary for the deaf and hard of hearing community to have access to the information. It would be wonderful if everyone had access to this story instead of just those who can hear. My two cents...

    September 5, 2012 at 11:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Dr Olu Bamgbade

    Highly commendable and inspirational: also gives us hope in the next generation.

    September 7, 2012 at 08:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. xpressivehandz

    Why is this not captioned for the deaf and hard of hearing? We are a population of 35-40 MILLION people. #captionTHIS #captionaction If we don't have captions, we don't know what is being said.

    September 13, 2012 at 12:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. please.no.name

    Why so many haters? What this girl has done is fantastic for her and other children and adults with hearing problems.

    February 2, 2013 at 13:38 | Report abuse | Reply
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