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Cedar Rapids Student Part of Nat'l UI Study

CEDAR RAPIDS, IA (CBS2/FOX28) - "It's been a really, really cool experience."

Sitting in her classroom at Prairie Point Middle School, Haley Walstrom wears a smile so big, you'd probably never notice, she wears something else.

"I can talk normally and pretty much hear everything," she tells us.

That's because she's worked hard. She was born with mild hearing loss in one ear, and severe in the other.

"So that started us on the journey of raising a child that's hard of hearing and trying to find the resources that we needed to find a good education for her and make sure that she had all the resources she needed to be successful," Mom Michele says.

Part of that success, has been helping others.

"I've always been interested in how individual differences in children's language abilities influences their life," begins Bruce Tomblin.

Tomblin has been studying hearing and hearing loss for years, but his most recent work was something new.

For the first time, he, along with colleagues at the University of Iowa and around the country, began looking at children with mild to severe loss, from a young age, through pre-school, to see how they developed and adapted.

Haley and her family immediately jumped on board.

"They would have this really cool van that would basically come to our house," Haley explains.

Michele says, "We felt it was really important to be part of something that was going to provide more information, more resources to families that have children with hard of hearing."

Over the years, Haley sat in this van and did tests that helped the researchers discover what they'd always thought, but had never been proven: Give kids the right help early, in the form of hearing aids - especially ones that fit correctly, as many don't - and realize how critical that early help is.

"If you can put a kid on the right path to success, then that's really the results that you're going to get," Michele says.

And Haley adds, "That's a really cool feeling to have, knowing that I'm helping other people today and in the future."

The Outcomes of Children with Hearing Loss (OCHL) study, conducted by researchers at the University of Iowa, Boys Town National Research Hospital, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, examined the impact of early identification and intervention on children with hearing loss.

To read more on the study, click here.

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