Written by: Julie Sautner
Stand-out athlete 9 year old Noah Powell was just like all of the other kids on the ice at the 2014 AAU National Ice Hockey Championships. He traveled with his family and team, the Illinois Jesters, to Minnesota to compete in the hopes of winning a national title, scoring goals, and overall dominating on the ice. Noah however, is NOT just an ordinary hockey player. Noah has mild to moderate bilateral hearing loss.
We met Noah and his team right before their AAA semifinal and would have never known of his challenges if it weren’t for the coach notifying the referee at the start of the game of their “hard of hearing” player. Noah and his coach Mark Roy, who is also hard of hearing, use a device called an Assisted Listening Device (ALD) to help Noah hear coaching commands just like the rest of his team does. Noah has hearing aids he places directly into his ear canal while his coach has a small microphone he wears around his neck which projects his voice directly to Noah’s hearing aids.
Noah’s mom and dad, Maria Elena and Anthony, sat down with AAU to tell us a little bit about Noah’s journey. Noah has been competing in the sport of hockey since he was just 4 years old. His parents were shocked to find out after a mandatory first grade hearing screening mandated by the state of Illinois where they live that Noah had mild to moderate hearing loss. He has the most trouble hearing middle conversational phonetic sound. His type of hearing loss can make it more challenging for him compared to others without hearing loss in and outside of the classroom. After discovering his hearing impairment, his school teachers began using an ALD so Noah could hear in the classroom.
When his parents learned about his hearing loss, he had already been playing hockey for 2 years. Maria Elena told us, “When we learned of his hearing loss, we thought he might have to pursue another sport other than hockey.”
Not long after Noah and his family consider themselves “blessed” to have found the American Hearing Impaired Hockey Association (AHIHA) which allowed them to believe that Noah could continue to play hockey.
“AHIHA taught us what was possible and every year they host a week-long camp in Chicago and families from all over the country unite,” said Maria Elena.
“It’s an amazing experience for our kids that love the game of hockey regardless of whether they are hard of hearing or deaf!”
With noticeable improvements in the classroom his parents decided “Why not use it in hockey too?” They invested in their own ALD to use on the ice with the hockey coaches. Coach Mark recalls the first game where they used his ALD as a “night and day difference.” Noah no longer had to rely on reading lips and could just focus all of his energy into playing the game just like all of his other teammates and competitors. Because Coach Mark is also hard of hearing and almost completely deaf in one of his ears, he relates to Noah on a whole different level compared to other coaches that are not hearing impaired. They have a very special relationship and Coach Mark likes to joke about how he has to be careful what he says on the bench while wearing the ALD.
“Noah hears EVERYTHING.” Said Coach Mark. “He will skate by after I say something to one of the other coaches and say ‘I heard that coach!’.”
Hockey is Noah’s passion. It allows him an outlet to take out all of his energy and frustration. His determination and drive despite his challenges is noticeable when you watch him play. If you look at the leaderboard from the AAU National Ice Hockey Championships AAA Mite level it speaks for itself. Noah was the top leader for assists and goals over all of the teams upon the conclusion of the tournament. Noah participates in AAU with the Illinois Jesters Mite team but he also competes with a community hockey group the Northbrook Bluehawks.
He does have to work harder and probably always will but he’s determined to do so to keep up with the other kids. His parents told us that Noah will even study Patrick Kane moves and try and emulate and practice them to keep improving his hockey techniques.
Noah Powell is just one example of many AAU participants defying their odds and challenges. We commend his efforts and wish him the best of luck in AAU Hockey and all of his future endeavors.
Getting involved with AHIHA gave Noah’s family hope, inspiration and support. For more info on the American Hearing Impaired Hockey Association CLICK HERE.