Scott Lieberman of Lake Grove says he is carving out a bright future of endless opportunities for his 2-year-old daughter, Lily, who has a hereditary hearing loss.
Unlike his daughter, who was diagnosed early, Lieberman, 34, didn't know about his hearing loss until the third grade. He attached a stigma to it and refused to wear a hearing aid until he was an adult.
Today, Lieberman works to give his daughter the latest technology that will enhance her hearing ability. He said he ensures she receives preparations to enter elementary school normally. "I want her to have the same opportunities that normal children have," he said.
To help, he will walk Sunday with an estimated 1,400 neighbors, friends and families within the hearing-loss community to raise money for the Cleary School for the Deaf in Nesconset and the Hearing Loss Association of America at its annual NYCWalk4Hearing at Riverside Park in Manhattan.
Money raised will help children at the Cleary School receive the latest in early intervention education, including hearing therapy. It will also help families pay for hearing aids, and cochlear implants, said Lieberman, who has been participating in the 5-kilometer walk with his daughter since she was an infant.
It is estimated that 36 million Americans report some degree of hearing loss. It also is estimated that 3 percent of schoolchildren have hearing loss, according to the hearing loss association. The organization receives half of the money raised at the Walk4Hearing.
Lieberman regrets buying into the stigma that hearing loss makes a person different. "I was an idiot," he said, adding he recognized his error when he started his professional life. He is a high school teacher.
"I asked myself, What was I missing?" When he put on his hearing aid, he said, "No one cared that I wore one."
Suzanne D'Amico, chairwoman of the walk, said: "It was devastating when I learned my daughter had a hearing loss. She was in pre-K and it was too late for early intervention." Her daughter, Anna Bella, 10, wears two hearing aids.
Being involved in the walk helped D'Amico "find the latest technology and get the best services" for her daughter in school. D'Amico's awareness helped her get "Bluetooth technology" to her daughter's classroom. The teacher wears a microphone that sends her voice into Anna Bella's hearing aid.
D'Amico said the goal is to give families and individuals the support they need and help erase "the stigma of hearing loss." She said she hopes that one day the public will have the same acceptance for hearing aids as they do for eyeglasses.
D'Amico said private insurance carriers should offer coverage for hearing aids and similar devices. "We have to bring down the cost and make it affordable," she said.
This story has been changed to correct the age of Lily, who is 2.