By Gabe Licht
DELANO, MN Thomas Depa, a kindergarten student at Delano Elementary, sits patiently as nurses Crista Wadholm and Jane Larter test his hearing.
“What do you hear?” asks Larter, the district nurse for Delano Public Schools.
“Eeeeeeeeeeee,” Depa responds, imitating the high-pitched squeal hearing test equipment is known to emit.
It was the first time Depa acknowledged he heard anything.
That’s because he didn’t need to acknowledge anything.
Depa was the first Delano student to test one of the district’s two new otoacoustic emissions analyzers, purchased thanks to donations from the Delano Knights of Colombus, Delano Lions, Loretto Lions, and B’s on the River.
Students are not required to raise their hands or otherwise acknowledge when they hear sounds from the new equipment, as it can sense whether or not the sounds were heard.
How does it work?
“It bounces sound waves off the ear drum and senses the frequencies that come back,” registered nurse Julie Sipe said.
After months in the making, the equipment has arrived at Delano Public Schools.
Without funds in the budget for the equipment, Larter had reached out to the Delano Lions for help.
Lion Dale Vander Linden contacted the Delano Knights of Columbus, Loretto Lions, and B’s on the River to see if the entities could come together to raise the $10,500 needed for two analyzers and a supply of disposable tips that cover the earpieces.
Delano Knights of Columbus donated $5,000, the Delano Lions and B’s on the River donated $3,000, and the Loretto Lions donated $2,500. A portion of the $3,000 donation was raised during B’s on the River Ribfest through a partnership with the Delano Lions.
“Thank you very much,” Wadholm, the Delano Elementary School nurse, told representatives of the Delano Lions and B’s on the River, who visited the school to see the equipment in action. “This is going to serve the community in a substantial way.”
Larter explained that the new equipment is a more reliable tool for testing students’ hearing, especially when determining whether or not a referral to an audiologist is needed.
“We want to make sure if we’re referring someone to a doctor, it’s legitimate,” Larter said. “It’s one more way to save time and money for students.”
Now, all students will be able to have their hearing tested, which has not always been the case.
“Before we had this device, we wouldn’t be able to assess some students’ hearing at all,” Wadholm said, referencing students who are unable to respond or communicate during a hearing test.
Even some students who can hear the beeps wait until they get louder to say anything, which renders the test results inaccurate.
Sipe noted that detecting hearing issues early is important for aiding in student development.
She also said that retesting students’ hearing used to take two days. With the new equipment, that should no longer be the case.
One analyzer will be used solely for Early Childhood Family Education students, while the other will be shared amongst the elementary, middle school, high school, Mt. Olive, and St. Maximilian Kolbe. The second machine will be used for students who may not be able to respond to a traditional audiometer and for retesting.
The district will continue to use traditional audiometers when possible, though Larter said two of those machines are malfunctioning and will need to be replaced.