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Helping the hard-of-hearing

There are as many as eight students in Chesapeake schools who are either deaf or partially hearing impaired, but only one belongs to Shelley Neal.

“Not all the kids are mine,” Shelley said, “but I feel like I should advocate for all of them.”

Neal’s daughter, Emily, 11, is a sixth-grader at Chesapeake Middle School and was born deaf. Emily received her first Cochlear implants at just 13-months-old and the second set when she was 5. Shelley said Emily will be getting her third set soon.

In her efforts to equip Chesapeake schools with a system that would benefit deaf and hard-of-hearing students Shelley has reached out to Ellen DeGeneres, the Today Show, the Cochlear Company and politicians. A YouTube video of Emily winning one of her many spelling bees garnered a retweet on Twitter from the Today Show’s Kathy Lee Gifford.

“I would write the grant myself,” Shelley said. “I have spoken with Rep. Ryan Smith (R-93) about getting funds. It would take the load off the school system financially.”

Emily currently carries a microphone from class to class so her teachers can use it in conjunction with an FM system. FM technology picks up the voice of the speaker via a body-worn transmitter microphone. It then uses harmless radio waves to send this signal wirelessly to the listener, who wears a tiny FM receiver.

“I would like to one day see all schools equipped for sound to help students like Emily,” Shelley said. “One system that will benefit everyone is the goal. Carrying that microphone around singles Emily out and I don’t like it.”

Shelley has ramped up her effort recently; she has resubmitted the YouTube video and contacted to the owner of Cochlear.