March 2019 Massillon Independent

For an organisation that’s been around 100 years, many are unaware of Quota Club or how it helps the deaf and hard of hearing.

Kate Thompson came into the world in the summer of 2014 weighing a robust 7 pounds and 1 ounce. The second of three children born to Stephanie and Scott Thompson of Jackson Township, she had the bluest eyes and longest fingers that wrapped around anyone’s hand, shirt or hair who held her. Love was instantaneous. At 2 days old, Kate was given a hearing test at the hospital. When a nurse returned her to her mother, she announced abruptly that the baby had a unilateral hearing loss, handed Thompson a list of specialists to contact and walked out of the room. “I went worst-case scenario,” she confided. “We had no experience with this. I didn’t even know they ran hearing tests on infants.” Hospitals in Ohio didn’t test newborns’ hearing until five dedicated and resolute women from an obscure Massillon service organization spearheaded legislation requiring that all infants born in hospitals be screened for hearing loss. Ohio was by no means a trailblazer in adopting the law. Other states had been doing it for years.

Founded in 1919 in Buffalo, N.Y., Quota International marks its centennial this year. Founders of the group decided on the name Quota, which means “share.” The five founders chose to keep their dream simple by using the “golden rule” as their code and the “sharing” of both talent and responsibility as its ideal. There are 219 clubs in 14 countries, including the U.S.

Massillon’s club, chartered in 1992, has 71 members, the most of any Quota club in the world.

Its mission as a non-profit is empowering women, children, the deaf and hard of hearing, and people with speech difficulties in local communities and worldwide.

Hearing loss and testing

Hearing loss is the most common congenital condition in the U.S. Although most infants can hear fine, each year an estimated three in 1,000 infants are born with moderate, severe or profound hearing loss resulting in delayed development in language, learning and speech. Tests:

  • Automated Auditory Brainstem Response (AABR) — measures how the hearing nerve and brain respond to sound. Clicks or tones are played through soft earphones into the baby’s ears. Three electrodes placed on the baby’s head measure the hearing nerve and brain’s response.
  • Otoacoustic Emissions (OAE) — measures sound waves produced in the inner ear. A tiny probe is placed just inside the baby’s ear canal. It measures the response (echo) when clicks or tones are played into the baby’s ears.

Both screenings are quick (about 5 to 10 minutes), painless and may be done while the baby is sleeping or lying still.

“We knew there was a critical need for newborns to be tested for hearing loss,” said Mary Pribich, a member of Quota International of Massillon. She was joined by members Susan Bussard, Joan Finefrock, Linda Peshek and Carrie Spangler who worked for three years with Ohio legislator Kirk Schuring getting the law passed. Club President Holly Maloney laughed about the club’s distinctive name and said if she asked 10 people if they’d heard of Quota, 10 people would say they hadn’t. She, too, was unaware of its existence until the group needed a certified public accountant and asked her to do work for them.

Ohio’s law, effective in 2004, signalled the universal implementation of newborn hearing screening. In 2016, according to the Ohio Department of Health, there were 135,504 newborns screened in Ohio for hearing loss. Of that number, 3,857 did not pass and were referred for additional diagnostic screening. In Stark County, 137 newborns were identified for additional diagnostic screening out of the 4,005 newborns checked. Summit County recorded 5,793 births with 107 referred for additional screening. Tuscarawas County identified 54 of the 1,068 screened. Experts caution, however, that infants who do not pass could have fluid in their ears, or the room they were tested in might have been noisy. Early intervention services for infants with hearing loss — ideally starting before a baby reaches 3 to 6 months old — can make a big difference in their communication and language development, members of Quota say. If a hearing loss is not caught early in an infant’s life, it can result in delayed development in language, learning and speech. Even a mild or partial hearing loss can affect a child’s ability to speak and understand language. Experts contend children must be fitted with hearing aids as soon as possible. “If you don’t do intervention, what good is it to know they are hearing impaired unless you introduce them to sound amplification (hearing aids),” Pribich said.

After infants are screened and identified, Quota realised that not all parents could afford paying $2,000 to $3,000 apiece for a hearing aid. Maloney said their Sound Beginnings project was implemented to purchase the first set of hearing aids for all children up to age 6 in western Stark County. Funding came from the generosity of multiple local foundations that responded over the years with grants totalling $250,000. During that time, 60 to 70 hearing aids were given to young children.

Cincinnati Children’s Hospital created Cincinnati Children’s Hearing Aid Trust (CCHAT) to ensure that all other children in Ohio from birth to age 3 receive their first set of hearing aids free. Together, the two groups partner so that newborns and young children in Ohio aren’t deprived of hearing aids.

That includes Kate Thompson. By 3 months old, she received from Quota her first hearing aid because of a profound hearing loss in her left ear. Most health insurance companies don’t cover the cost of hearing aids because they are considered “cosmetic,” Thompson said. When Kate was 9 months old, additional testing showed she had a progressive hearing loss in her other ear. Thompson, an adjunct faculty member at Kent State University, said Quota stepped up again with a second hearing aid. 

Putting a hearing aid into the ear of an infant presents a rough learning curve for children and parents. “Babies like to pull hearing aids apart and chew on the tubing,” Thompson said from experience. It’s also a challenge to get hearing aids in and out. Now at 4 years of age, Kate keeps them in. Said Thompson: “Kate’s hearing loss has been challenging on so many levels, but it has led to a wonderful supportive group that has helped me become a better advocate for Kate and her needs. It has led me to be involved in projects that are impacting other families dealing with hearing loss.”

The benevolence of Quota of Massillon is astonishingly far reaching. Maloney, who is at the helm this year, is an 18-year member. She complimented her members for being a hard-working bunch, noting some are speech therapists, nurses or audiologists. In addition to the great strides made for the hearing impaired, the group has an exhaustive list of other projects. Last year, money was distributed to disadvantaged women and children, and college scholarships were awarded. Every year, a needy family is adopted and receives monthly gift cards which also are given to other needy families at Christmas. Crayons, school supplies and backpacks are purchased for Massillon Salvation Army’s annual back-to-school program. Members make centerpieces and desserts and buy food to honour Faith in Action volunteers at a Thanksgiving dinner. The volunteers help senior citizens with transportation. The Family Living Center homeless shelter is given $1,200 along with toiletries, sheets and bath towels for residents. Items are given to babies, youngsters and teenagers entering foster care through Pathway Caring for Children; Maloney said some children have nothing more than a sack of belongings when entering foster care.

A newer project that will continue this summer is an 8-week speech therapy clinic that allows children to continue therapy during summer vacation. Assistance is given to help buy batteries, and another new program, “Battery Buddies” will continue to supply batteries to students while they’re in school.

At least 300 elementary classrooms in western Stark County have been equipped with sound amplification systems that also benefit hearing students. Maloney said the systems allow the teacher to be heard anywhere in the room, without having to speak louder. It also helps children with ear infections and those unable to always pay attention.

In April, Kate will undergo cochlear implant surgery on her left ear. She and her brothers, Anderson, 6, and Davis 2, are avid swimmers, and it is hoped that the cochlear implant will allow Kate to hear, particularly while swimming so her parents can communicate with her. Hearing aids cannot get wet.

Kate also attends auditory/oral pre-school classes called SPEAK where students with hearing loss learn to listen and talk. The highly-specialised program, held all day five days a week, is provided by Stark County Educational Service Center. Quota supports the program by providing hearing assistance technology and classroom materials.

“Our whole family is very thankful for what Quota has done for Kate and we all want to make sure that they can continue their work in our community,” Stephanie said. “Larger organisations and foundations model their programs off of what we are doing in Massillon. We are doing things here first, and that is a testament to what this organisation is and its impact in the community.”

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