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Hard-of-hearing mom hears son’s voice with ‘beautiful clarity’

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Trishis hard hearing recently able hear her ssing onstage clearly for first time. Trevor is

Trisha Leaderbrand of Grayslake with her son Trevor Leaderbrand, 24. Trisha is hard of hearing and recently able to hear her son sing onstage clearly for the first time. Trevor is a cast member of Broadway musical "Catch Me if You Can." | Special to Sun-Times Media

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Hearing Loss

17 percent (36 million) of American adults report some degree of hearing loss.

2 to 3 out of every 1,000 children in the United States are born deaf/hard of hearing.

Only 1 out of 5 people who could benefit from a hearing aid actually wears one.

Source: National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders

Updated: March 10, 2013 3:28AM

GRAYSLAKE — Trish Leaderbrand faked it for years. She would smile at the appropriate moment and join in the applause when everyone else started clapping.

But the Grayslake resident could not hear dialogue or music onstage for herself, thereby leaving her in the dark about what was happening onstage while her son performed. She was born with about 75 percent hearing loss in both ears, but did not let that stop her from attending dance recitals and other stage performances of her two children.

It wasn’t until recently that Leaderbrand was able to hear her son Trevor, 24, who is on national tour with the Broadway production of “Catch Me if You Can.”

“It was amazing for me because I knew he had a nice voice. People would tell me that and rave about his voice, but to really understand that for the first time, I heard it with beautiful clarity. I was totally, totally impressed,” said Leaderbrand, 55.

Although she has high-powered hearing aids in both ears, they don’t help her hear what’s onstage much.

“The manufacturers of hearing aids, as well as some who sell hearing aids, exaggerate what hearing aids can do,” said Linda Remensnyder, doctor of audiology and founder and executive vice president of Hearing Associates in Libertyville, Gurnee and Lincolnshire.

She is Leaderbrand’s audiologist.

“Hearing aids are amplifiers with microphones. Microphones work best at 3 to 6 feet. Whether you are in a theater or church, you are not going to be able to hear any closer than 6 feet,” said Remensnyder.

Even if a person like Leaderbrand is able to get a front row seat at a theater, the hearing aid is not close enough to pick up sound from the stage, she said.

A technology called the Hearing Loop is changing the hearing experience for the hard of hearing, she said. It is a loop of copper wire that once installed at a theater or other location transmits sound to hearing aids and cochlear implants.

There are 31 places in Lake County, including churches, senior centers and Lincolnshire Marriott Theatre, that have the Hearing Loop installed. There are 21 places in Lake County considering installing the Hearing Loop, according to Remensnyder.

Remensnyder of Lake Forest told Leaderbrand about the Hearing Loop. A theater in Wisconsin has this installed — that’s how she was able to hear her son perform as one of the ensemble in his first Broadway production.

“My mom’s hearing has been interesting to watch develop over the years. When I was little, I had to use my voice or stomp on the ground to get her attention. The technology has evolved,” said Trevor. “I never really associated it with my career. She would never fully hear me. This was the first time she said she understood the whole plot — it’s crazy for me to think that she was missing the story line (before). It took me by surprise. I’m glad the first thing she was able to understand was something I’m proud of.”

Trevor graduated from Carmel Catholic High School in Mundelein in 2006. He aspires to perform on Broadway. He resides with his parents in Grayslake when he is not touring with “Catch Me If You Can.”

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