Amber's Gift of Sound

At just 18 months old, Amber Ricker was diagnosed with a hearing impairment. In college, her hearing loss worsened, and she began to lose her vision, too. The root cause, a large cyst on her brain, led to numerous surgeries. Then in 2015, she was involved in a head-on car crash with a semi truck, requiring more brain surgeries.

Through these and other serious health issues, Amber has maintained a positive outlook and strong determination. She’s currently employed full-time in North Carolina — teaching children with blindness and low vision — while working toward a second master’s degree.

Amber has recovered much of her vision and some of her hearing, thanks to the surgeries, and the help of Miracle-Ear hearing aids. She’s grateful for receiving her hearing aids at no charge through the Miracle-Ear Foundation. “I had been putting off getting new hearing aids for two years due to $40,000 in medical bills I already had,” she says.

North Carolina Miracle-Ear representative Rick Beare recently donated his professional services to ­ fit Amber with the ideal Miracle-Ear hearing aids for her needs. “I told Rick that I have to hear my students, but not all the background noise in the school building. He said, ‘okay, we have a solution for that.’ He was very reassuring.”

The new Miracle-Ear hearing aids have far exceeded Amber’s expectations.

“They’re such a big improvement over my previous aids, especially how they seem to know which sounds I need to hear. I also can tell which direction sounds are coming from without looking.”

Above all, Amber appreciates how much good hearing has helped her in the classroom. “If I’m working with a student one on one, while sitting near a noisy hallway, the hearing aids automatically make all the background noise quieter while making my student’s voice louder. That’s a huge difference for me.”

Whether she’s in front of the class or providing individualized instruction, Amber believes it’s important for students to feel connected to their teacher — even if they don’t recognize the visual cues. “I can’t be asking them to repeat themselves multiple times. They need to know I’m paying attention to them, that I’m with them 100%.”

Amber clearly possesses a deep passion for the work she does with youngsters who are visually and/or hearing impaired. “I don’t want what I’ve been through to be in vain. I shouldn’t have made it through all this stuff — I almost died multiple times. But I think there’s a purpose behind it. Even if I had just one student and could help that child become more independent and confident, it would all be worth it.”

Amber is the first recipient to receive hearing aids from the Miracle-Ear Foundation as both a child and an adult.