Opening up more of the world for Raffie

Richard Zowie/The Highlander
Rafael ‘Raffie’ Hernandez gets used to his new hearing aids, which are an upgrade over hearing aids he’s had for several years. The hearing aids were a donation from Estes Audiology in Marble Falls.

By Richard Zowie

The Highlander

Rafael “Raffie” Hernandez is 16 and attends Marble Falls High School. The oldest of five children, he enjoys art and math and playing baseball. He also likes to listen to music and watch movies, which means a lot of time listening to Youtube.

Raffie’s mother, Lilia Yanez, says her son likes movies and music because they help him feel connected to the world around him. 

He talks more and vocalizes more than he’s sensing,” she said.

His teachers, Mrs. Kinman and Ms. Sadler, say he loves reading library books to his siblings and is a gifted art student and “quite the joker in class.”

But because Raffie is hearing impaired, partaking in some of his hobbies can be a challenge. He’s been a patient for more than a decade at Estes Audiology.

Recently, Raffie received new hearing aids from audiologists Dr. Kathy Sonnamaker and Dr. Jake Keup. The doctors gave him new hearing aids and made adjustments to them.

For free. They replace his previous hearing aids, which were more than seven years old.

This is the latest technology,” said Sonnamaker. “Most digital hearing aids can do many different functions and help patients hear their best in noisy situations. It’s not just about making things audible, but also improving the fidelity of sound. Ground noise is difficult for those with hearing loss. His new instruments and wireless devices will improve how he hears in and out of the classroom and will have wireless connectivity to his phone.”

Raffie also has a Roger Pen device, which his teachers can use as a microphone to speak directly into his hearing aids. This helps get the speech-to-noise radio down to minimum.

A phone app also helps make adjustments to Raffie’s hearing instruments. 

He wears a device that acts an intermediary between his phone and his hearing instruments,” Sonnamaker said. 

Yanez described herself as deeply touched over the “pricey donation” that Estes Audiology made to her son.

For them to have donated them to him, it’s something that warms me up so much. It’s something very sweet they didn’t have to do,” said Yanez. “Normally, Raffie is reserved and gives one-word answers. Now he talks more.”

Sonnamaker described Estes as a “family” that pulls together to help people in the community.

We try to focus on the positive side of hearing loss,” she said. “It’s not always what you can’t hear, but what you can hear. We’re very happy to have done this.”

Julie Skero, hearing impaired specialist for Marble Falls Independent School District, has worked with Raffie since kindergarten.

He’s an exceptional young man,” she said. “He’s always willing to help others and show kindness to everyone he meets. Raffie and I have awaited the day in which he would receive new hearing aids.”

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