Milan Smalls, an eighth grade student at Abington Friends School, has published her first book available for purchase on Amazon – It’s Okay to Hear!

The 13-year old was born premature and had ear infections most of her life. Since she was 20 months old, she had tubes in her ears and after her fifth or sixth surgery, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) did a tympanic cadaver eardrum replacement. In total, she has had about 11 or 12 different surgeries and the resulting scar tissue from these surgeries caused conductive hearing loss.
Her problem with hearing loss started in kindergarten or first grade but was undiagnosed. She was using so much energy trying to hear that she was tired all the time. And, that started the teasing and bullying from some of her classmates. They said she was slow but that was just because she was concentrating more, trying to focus and keeping up with everyone else.
“I was bullied because I was struggling in school, I couldn’t hear the teacher,” Smalls said. “If I was chosen as line leader and the teacher told me to go, I didn’t hear her so kids would push and shove me.”
CHOP diagnosed her with hearing loss in her right ear when she was in fifth grade and recommended the Pennsylvania Ear Institute (PEI) for ear molds.
“When I first walked into PEI I felt comfortable because they specialized in my hearing disability. They were all really nice and I saw all the different hearing aids they had. I dealt with both of the pediatric doctors but have a special relationship with Dr. Lindsay Bondurant, PEI director, because we talked about Harry Potter all the time and we tried to do a Harry Potter ear mold,” she said.
Smalls said when she first received her hearing aid she was pretty nervous as she was already getting bullied. She wondered what her friends and classmates would think. Once she starting wearing her hearing aids she found out her classmates were accepting of it and the bullying stopped.
And, she started getting better grades. She went from a B student to an A student. She changed schools in sixth grade after receiving a $20,000 merit based scholarship for Abington Friends School.
So how did she come up with the idea for a book? “My school had an eighth grade project,” stated Smalls. “I like to draw and write, so I wrote about my experience with hearing aids. I feel more comfortable now and I notice other people with hearing aids. It’s OK to be different, nothing can stop you.”
Milan Smalls’ book It’s Okay to Hear! can be purchased on Amazon.

To request an appointment with the Pennsylvania Ear Institute, click here or call 215.780.3180.