Dr. Thomas Fischer knows firsthand the pain, confusion, and fear felt by parents of children with hearing loss.
Born in Dayton but raised in Cincinnati, Tom graduated from St. Xavier High School and Xavier University before attending the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. After completing a residency in pediatrics at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and a followship in allergy and immunology at UCLA, he returned to Ohio to teach at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and join a professional practice.
In 1979, Tom’s life took an unexpected turn. His daughter Elizabeth, then only fourteen months old, contracted bacterial meningitis and subsequently lost hearing in both of her ears. “My wife Kathy and I were devastated but determined to do all we could do,” Tom recounts. “We were willing to consider all medical and educational approaches so she could speak.”
Unfortunately, the Fischer’s options were limited. “At that time, Ohio Valley Voices was not yet founded,” Tom explains. “Cochlear implants were a research tool and only available to adults. They were 20 years away from widespread use in children.”
However, with the help of powerful hearing aids, an educational philosophy centered on oral communication, and numerous highly skilled and dedicated teachers and therapists, Elizabeth progressed and learned to speak. She eventually earned a bachelor’s degree from Miami University of Ohio and a law degree from the University of Maryland. She now specializes in disability law and has received a cochlear implant.
Although Elizabeth’s story is undoubtedly a happy one, Tom and Kathy were permanently impacted by the experience. “Those early memories never go away,” he reflects.
About two years ago, Tom and Kathy were encouraged by their friends Jack Wild and Andy Sweeny to get involved with Ohio Valley Voices. They took a tour of the building and met what Tom calls “the real stars of OVV: the children.” They were especially moved by the stories they heard from the children’s parents—stories much like their own. They didn’t need much convincing to lend their support to OVV.
Now retired, Tom is grateful for the opportunity to “pay it forward” as a member of the OVV Board of Trustees and Development Committee. “I hope my medical background can be helpful in guiding and promoting Ohio Valley Voices,” he says. “I also know that as a parent of a child who is deaf, I have a role to play.”
When asked how others might be inspired to get involved, Tom offers a simple tip: “Visit OVV, either virtually or in person. Look, listen, and learn, and you will never be the same.”