When you are a child growing up with hearing loss, or the parent of a child who’s diagnosed with a hearing condition, you likely have lots of questions. What challenges will we face? Where can we find advice? Who else will understand?

Annabelle Jacobs, age 17, has made it her mission to answer these questions.

Her YouTube series, Hear for Hope, documents her experiences growing up with moderate to severe hearing loss in both ears. Her delivery is upbeat, candid, and as practical as it is inspiring. So far, she’s covered everything from lip reading to what it’s like having hearing aids around swimming pools. Notes are pouring in from families with requests for future topics, and thank-yous for the videos she’s already shared. “I feel like I am learning more and more about my 2 yr old through you!” one mom wrote in the comments section. “I hope my son can look to you as inspiration as he grows up,” wrote another.

“It feels really good to know that I can share my experiences, which seem so simple and normal to me, with people who really need to hear it,” says Annabelle. She’s a role model for kids with hearing loss: Believe in yourself – you can achieve things beyond imagination.

“Parents have told us, ‘This means everything to me,’” says Annabelle’s mom, Sallie Ann. “I get it, because when you first learn that your child has hearing loss, you do not know to expect.”

“Can this be fixed?”

Annabelle’s hearing loss was diagnosed at birth, after she failed a hearing test at the Massachusetts hospital where she was born.

“It was really shocking,” says Sallie Ann. “You’re told that your child will never learn to speak without hearing aids. We spent the first month or two at a loss.” She and husband Peter had a million questions, and concerns: “At first, we took her all up and down the East coast, asking, ‘Can this be fixed?’ One doctor finally said, ‘This is permanent. Your job is not to fix this. It’s to focus on having this beautiful baby.’”

So that’s what they did. Instead of fixing their daughter’s hearing loss, they focused on helping her thrive with it. By 3 months old, Annabelle had her first set of hearing aids, and Sallie Ann had gotten in the habit of talking to her constantly as she went about the day, narrating every action like a sports commentator. Sure enough, Annabelle started babbling. With the support of town-sponsored speech therapy, she started speaking. She learned to read lips.

When Annabelle was 5 years old, the family – which by then included Annabelle’s two younger brothers, Tate and Henry – moved to Connecticut. That’s when they found Connecticut Children’s Division of Audiology.

Annabelle Jacobs

“The latest and greatest technology”

When Annabelle was little, she vividly remembers Connecticut Children’s audiology team celebrating as she chose the color of her new hearing aids (she went with light blue, with purple molds). As she grew older, she remembers them reassuring her as she adjusted to an upgraded model.

“Connecticut Children’s is a place where I don’t have to worry about feeling vulnerable,” she says.

It’s also a place that connects her to the latest hearing technology, which has opened her up to a new world of sound. “I would not be able to function in everyday life without my hearing aids,” says Annabelle. “I’m really thankful for the technology, and how advanced it is.”

This technology continues to make leaps and bounds, improving how sounds are isolated and amplified in challenging settings, and synching over Bluetooth to phones, TVs and other devices. “Connecticut Children’s always keeps us up to date on the latest and greatest,” says Sallie Ann.

At a recent appointment, pediatric audiologist Emily Leserman, AuD, CCC-A, created a computer model showing the difference in Annabelle’s hearing with and without her hearing aids – from indistinguishable murmurs to clear conversation. Annabelle found it so striking, she put it in one of her YouTube videos, with Leserman’s enthusiastic support.

“Annabelle is a remarkable young woman. The way she is discussing her hearing loss to advocate for herself as well as other children and families living a similar reality is incredible,” says Leserman. “At Connecticut Children’s, we’re so proud to support her in her hearing journey. Annie is such a star, and we love watching her shine.”

Annabelle Jacobs

“You can conquer anything”

“I want other kids and families with hearing loss to know that everything is going to be okay,” says Annabelle. “I want families with newly diagnosed children to know they should be optimistic for their child’s future.”

Sallie Ann sometimes chimes in on the Hear for Hope email account, when parents have questions for her as a mom. “I responded to one recently about this,” she says. “Yes, we all want our child to have what others have. But we’re not all meant to go through the world in the same way. We’re all unique. Annabelle’s journey is not supposed to look like her brothers’. With that in mind, we’ve always just raised her to be confident, and grateful.”

As a result, Annabelle’s videos – and Annabelle herself – have become a source of hope for the hard of hearing community. She’s an exceptional student, a three-sport athlete, and a volunteer for numerous programs for kids with hearing loss. When she applies to colleges next year, she’s considering programs in audiology, speech pathology, and communication sciences and disorders.

She is living the message of her YouTube series: When kids with hearing loss have the right support, and believe in themselves, they can achieve things beyond imagination.

“I don’t let my hearing loss get in the way of my goals and achievements,” says Annabelle. “Everyone has their own challenges and things that they’re trying to get over and face. Once you realize that, and conquer that, you basically can conquer anything.”

Want to learn more about our ear, nose and throat services?

Connecticut Children’s offers four convenient ENT locations and a wide variety of services for different conditions.