A happy, upbeat kid with an infectious smile, Noah Davidson loves playing imaginative games with his classmates and sister. He is also the star of his very own children’s book.
Born in Minot, North Dakota, Noah suffered a traumatic birth that required him to be resuscitated and placed in the NICU for the first six days of his life. Under a regimen of heavy antibiotics, he grew healthier and was able to go home. But that wasn’t the end of Noah’s struggles. After failing several tests, he was confirmed as having moderate bilateral sensorineural hearing loss at one month old.
Recalling her initial reaction to the news, Noah’s mother Danielle says, “His diagnosis came as quite a shock, as we had no family history of hearing loss and no idea what had caused it. As surprised as we were, all we could think about was next steps.” Danielle and Noah’s father, Aaron, were scared but determined to do whatever was necessary to get their son the help he needed.
Faced with the daunting prospect of raising a child with hearing loss, the Davidsons moved back to Ohio in 2019. During another screening at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, they learned that Noah’s hearing had worsened, resulting in moderate-to-severe loss in both ears. Although genetic testing failed to determine the precise reason for Noah’s impairment, the specialists at Cincinnati Children’s suspected the antibiotics he had received as a newborn caused ototoxicity, or medicine-induced hearing loss.
Still unsure of what to do next, the Davidsons caught a break when their audiologist, Violette Lavender, gave them a flyer for Ohio Valley Voices. It was their first time hearing about the program, but as soon as they met Maria and took a tour things started to fall into place.
“After visiting Ohio Valley Voices and meeting with some of the staff, we truly felt that this place was going to be so important to Noah’s success,” Danielle recounts. And so, in March of 2020, at the age of three, Noah enrolled in OVV’s Discovery Center 1 program. Then, just as Noah was beginning to acclimate to life at OVV, another unexpected twist occurred, this time in the form of a world-historic event—the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Noah had only been at OVV for two weeks when COVID hit and the school had to transition to all-virtual classes. We were concerned that his success would suffer,” Danielle admits. But with tenacity and grit, Noah and the entire OVV community rose to the challenge, and Aaron and Danielle’s fears were allayed. “Amazingly, after learning how to work with Zoom, Noah didn’t skip a beat!” she says with pride. “Thanks to his amazing teachers he made so much progress in such a short time.”
When onsite learning resumed in August 2020, Noah couldn’t have been more excited to go back to OVV. He quickly grew fond of his teachers Molly, Julie, and Selina and bonded with his classmates Brooklyn, Hadassah, Pia, Joyce, and Brindle. “He especially loves all the girls!” Danielle says.
Of all Noah’s OVV buddies, however, none is more important to him than his former Speech-Language Pathologist, Martina Guarello. Martina helped Noah build his verbal skills through the spring and summer of 2020. Despite working together for only a few months, Noah made amazing progress in that time and the two formed a powerful and lasting connection.
“Noah would light up every time he got to see her or her name was brought up in conversation,” Danielle explains. “He would smile big and say, ‘I love my Martina! Can I go see my Martina?!!’ She holds such a special place in Noah’s heart and our family’s and always will.”
Before Martina moved to Spain in the summer of 2020, the Davidson’s took her out for dinner, where she surprised Noah with a very special gift—“Thank You Super Ears,” a children’s book she had written and published that was inspired by Noah and his all-powerful hearing aids a.k.a. “super ears.”
Describing the scene, Danielle says, “Noah was so excited when he learned that the boy in the book resembled him and was named after him! He was smiling from ear to ear as Martina read him the book for the first time.” Even after Martina’s departure, the two have remained close and talk regularly via FaceTime. (You can read all about Martina’s time working at OVV in this month’s Staff Spotlight.)
For Danielle and Aaron, Noah’s bond with Martina is just the beginning of what they expect to be a life-altering experience for their son. They’re enormously pleased with Ohio Valley Voices so far and can’t wait to see where Noah’s journey at the program takes him.
“The amount of progress that Noah has made in verbal communication is extraordinary,” Aaron says. “He still has much to learn, but we are confident he is on the right track.”
“Noah is excelling and the happiest we have ever seen him,” Danielle continues. “He went from saying choppy phrases and being hard to understand to speaking clearly in complete thoughts. His progress is amazing. He fit right into the OVV family and was welcomed with open arms.”
Echoing this sentiment, Aaron says that it’s not just the quality of education that makes OVV special. It’s the sense of community, of family, that makes children like Noah feel they belong. “OVV takes kids just as they are, no matter their challenge, and pays an unrivaled level of individual attention to their unique needs, and not just in an academic sense. We truly believe there is no other place like it.“
Perhaps the clearest sign of OVV’s success is Noah’s own enthusiasm to attend the program. As his father attests, “Literally every day Noah asks, ‘Can I go back to school?!’”