Education Takes Grand Prize: Greta Lundquist
Eleven-year-old Greta Lundquist stands before two large trifold poster boards, fashioning a welcoming smile as onlookers peruse the Swift County Fair in Minnesota. Her poster boards—one entitled “Being Hard of Hearing,” and the other, “My Visit with Tani Austen, Starkey Hearing Foundation”—capture curious eyes, and Greta confidently answers questions and explains why she is there. The soon-to-be sixth-grader actually has normal hearing, but because her mom was scheduled to be fitted for hearing aids at the Starkey Hearing Foundation’s office, Greta accompanied her and received the opportunity of a lifetime. And as she proudly showcases her two poster boards at the fair, she can’t help but to think about that special day—sitting one-on-one with Tani Austen, co-founder of Starkey Hearing Foundation, for an interview. Greta’s mom has moderate to severe hearing loss, while her six-year-old brother has mild hearing loss. While interviewing Tani Austen, Greta heard a very familiar story. It happened that Tani, too, became aware and interested in hearing loss at a young age, when Tani’s mom first received hearing aids. Tani, along with William F. Austen and a group of dedicated workers, eventually went on to fit more than 100,000 hearing aids to people in need each year through the Starkey Hearing Foundation. The Starkey team helps people all over the globe, such as in Kenya, Honduras, and Israel. And that day, Greta got to interview Tani and learn all about the projects and missions the foundation has completed. One thing Greta learned was that “anyone can work on a hearing mission,” whether you’re hard of hearing, deaf, or hearing. Greta took this to heart and decided that she wanted to educate the Swift County fair-goers about the deaf and hard of hearing community—not only to honor her mother and brother but to bring awareness to the general hearing population. “It is not just people in nursing homes who are hard of hearing,” Greta reminds us. Greta’s informational poster boards won her two blue ribbons and two Grand Champion ribbons at the fair. It felt great teaching her audience a little bit about what it’s like to live with someone who’s hard of hearing. She has to make sure she’s facing her mom when talking to her, and if they’re in a noisy shopping mall or a busy café, Greta just has to wait until they get to a quieter spot. Their home is also a little bit different than the average household, fit with a few more pieces of technology, like a captioned phone and TV, assisted listening devices, and a plentiful amount of hearing aid batteries just in case. “Try wearing earplugs for a day and you might get a little bit of an understanding of how hard it is,” Greta advises. “It is frustrating [for me] at times, but… just because my mom may say, ‘Not now,’ or, ‘I can't hear you right now,’ doesn't mean she doesn't want to talk to me. We just need to find a better place.” Hearing loss doesn’t hold this family back. It may be seen as a struggle or a conflict sometimes, but hearing loss is something that can easily be managed and even embraced. Greta hopes to participate in a hearing mission someday alongside Tani Austen and the Starkey Hearing Foundation. As she clutches her Grand Champion ribbons with pride, she knows that she can make a difference, giving a voice to those who aren’t able to hear.