This year, Ashley Stehle gave her dad a truly one-of-a-kind Christmas gift. The 15-year-old high school freshman from St. Louis serenaded her father, Ken Stehle, at her school Christmas concert and — for the first time ever — Stehle heard his daughter’s voice.
"It was awesome to hear her beautiful voice,” 49-year-old Ken Stehle, who has been deaf since birth, tells Yahoo Shine. Just days before the concert at Villa Duchesne, the Catholic school his daughter attends, Stehle was fitted with a new hearing aid that works wirelessly with a small microphone. At the concert, Ashley wore the microphone on her dress, which then sent the sound of her voice to a receiver around her dad’s neck that connects directly to his hearing aid.
“We didn’t know if this hearing aid would work, which is why I was very nervous for the concert,” Ashley, whose mother is also deaf, tells Yahoo Shine. “He didn’t know exactly what I was saying because he has never heard the words before, which is why I signed some of the song for him, but for the first time the sound of my voice was registering in his mind.”
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Ashley's solo — she sang "Christmas (Daddy Please Come Home)," her own twist on the 1963 Darlene Love hit “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)" — was kept secret from her father. In fact, it wasn’t even listed on the concert program. In written correspondence with Yahoo Shine, Stehle says, “Ashley sang the song as a surprise to me and I will never forget it for the rest of my life." Though Stehle began wearing a hearing aid at the age of 15 months, he has never been able to detect pitch or tone before now, and was previously only able to identify vibrations and muddled noises.
According to Dr. Sol Marghzar, AuD, a board-certified doctor of audiology in Beverly Hills, the technology used by Ashley and her father helps combat the issue of distance for the hearing-impaired. “It improves the signal-to-noise ratio,” says Marghzar, who explains that the microphone helps to filter out the distracting noise in the environment, so the person wearing the hearing aid can focus on a single sound— in this case, Ashley’s voice.
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According to Ashley, she could see her dad in the audience during her solo and knew immediately that he could hear her. Finally. “He was sobbing. I was holding back. At that moment we were inseparable,” Ashley shares. “Now my life is fulfilled. I love to sing, and my parents can’t hear, which is heartbreaking. But now my dad can hear me, and it’s awesome."