A great number of people are reluctant to get fit with hearing aids because they believe – mistakenly, of course – that hearing aids will make them look old and unattractive.
Not so – just ask Hayleigh Scott, a 10-year-old who is busy designing beautiful earring-like jewelry that hearing aid users of all ages can wear with pride and pizzazz.
“I just want people to enjoy wearing their hearing aids and to make them feel special,” Hayleigh explains. “Let’s celebrate our uniqueness!”
A severe to profound hearing loss is not the only problem little Hayleigh has had to face in her young life. Her parents, Rachel and Andrew, say their daughter, who has a twin sister, Vienna, was born with a congenital diaphragmatic hernia - an abnormal opening in the diaphragm, the muscle that helps us breathe. She also suffered from other, related abnormalities, such as dislocation of organs - her heart was located under her arm, and her stomach, intestines, and bowels nestled in the space where her lungs were supposed to be. Given the seriousness of her condition, the doctors focused on the baby’s immediate survival and they did not perform hearing tests routinely administered to all newborns.
It wasn’t until 17 months later that Rachel and Andrew grew concerned about Hayleigh’s hearing. They noticed that she didn’t react to noises the way her twin sister did. There were also other worrisome signs. “We noticed that she was babbling like her sister but she omitted certain sounds and consonants,” Rachel relates.
Tests performed at 18 months confirmed what Hayleigh’s parents had suspected – the little girl had a hearing loss.
However, having survived a life-threatening health condition and surgeries to repair her diaphragm and relocate the organs, Hayleigh wasn’t about to be slowed down by hearing loss, or by behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aids she has been wearing since a very young age. And, she wasn’t going to hide them either or pretend they didn’t exist.
All it took was some imagination, creativity, and desire to make a difference.
Five years ago, Rachel and Andrew were discussing with other parents how to effectively camouflage hearing aids with long hair and other gimmicks. Hayleigh, however, who was only five at the time, had other ideas.
She and her siblings thought of ways to make the hearing aids stand out and shine. After a while, Hayleigh started designing charms that could hang on the hearing aids and look like “regular” dangling earrings.
Her parents saw her efforts and decided she needed a patent to market these beautiful creations – without it, she couldn’t advertise or promote her charms in any way. They applied for and received a provisional patent – an almost three-year-process –which has allowed Hayleigh to develop her business and entrepreneurial skills.
Since then, the fifth-grader hasn’t wasted any time creating her charms – using supplies from craft stores - in addition to regular earrings. At present, she has about 50 designs available, ranging from simple to ornate ones that feature tiny crystals and rhinestones that she sells through her website, Hayleigh’s Cherished Charms, as well as at craft fairs and audiologists’ offices.
“I have sold more charms and earrings than I ever expected and am really excited about my business,” Hayleigh reports.
In a true entrepreneurial fashion, Hayleigh knows some good rules of running a business: offer your customers good service and quality products at a good price. She adheres to this motto – the charms are reasonably priced from $10 to $25 and shipping on all orders is free.
As she grows her business and develops her line, Hayleigh is contributing 10 percent of proceeds from her sales to support the research and education into hearing loss. Among them are “Hear,” a school for hearing impaired children in New Hampshire that Hayleigh attended. And, Rachel adds, “we have been considering how we could have customers specify what schools or research groups they would like the proceeds of their purchases to go to.”
And, as every successful business person, Hayleigh loves getting positive customer feedback. One, proudly featured on her website, is from a mom who discovered Hayleigh’s charms: “I never wear dangling earrings because I never want any attention drawn to my ears, but you have inspired me.”
All in all, Hayleigh’s charms reflect the girl’s positive and inspirational message: “People can learn from my story to never give up,” she says. “Even if they have hearing aids and think they are different, they can always do something to make the world a better place.”
For more information and pictures of Hayleigh's charm collection, visit HayleighsCherishedCharms.com