Helping Kids Hear By Listening

The following article was written by Everly Johnson, 11 years old, about Michael Puricelli, MD, a faculty member in our Division of Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery. Everly originally wrote the story as a submission to TIME for Kids’ “Kid Reporter” program, but we’re so glad she shared it with us! Thank you, Everly!


Photo of article author, Everly Johnson, and Dr. Puricelli
Author Everly Johnson (right) hands Dr. Puricelli a copy of her article.

Problems come in different shapes and sizes. About a year ago, four-year-old Beau Curwick had trouble hearing. His doctor found holes in both of his eardrums, as well as cysts, or skin growths, in his ears.

“This caused potential hearing loss for Beau,” said Laura Curwick, Beau’s mother.

Not being able to hear can affect a kid’s whole life. The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association says that hearing loss can lead to trouble making friends, difficulty in school, and even feeling bad about themselves.

Beau’s doctor referred Beau to Dr. Michael Puricelli, a kids’ ear, nose and throat expert who works at the American Family Children’s Hospital in Madison, WI. After two surgeries, Beau was finally able to hear the same as everyone else. He could now know what others were hearing. He could finally understand.

“He gave us his hearing back because although he hadn’t had major hearing loss yet, if it wasn’t repaired, it would have affected his hearing and speech going forth,” Mrs. Curwick said. “We were very grateful for everything Dr. Puricelli did for us.”

Dr. Puricelli has solved many kids’ hearing problems. But how many patients has he helped? Arin Fischer is a nurse who works with Dr. Puricelli at the children’s hospital.  “I couldn’t even guess honestly. There’s so many. He always gets positive feedback from his patients and their families. Hundreds. Hundreds and hundreds.”

What makes Dr. Puricelli special is how he talks to kids, and listens to them too.

“I try to break things down and talk about things in a way that makes sense,” Dr. Puricelli said. “I also try to pause as I’m talking and explain things to try to get feedback as to if what I’m saying is making sense to the person that I’m speaking with.”

Fischer agrees. “If there’s a toddler in there, he may use words that they would understand, as opposed to a teenager,” she said. “Each provider practices a little differently, but his patients have expressed their appreciation for him taking the time to really explain things.”

Sadly, Beau’s family may have to change health care providers.

“We’re hoping that we can stay with Dr. Puricelli, even if we have to change. We will fight tooth and nail as parents to be able to stay with him.”

Dr. Puricelli is a hero because he listens to kids and tells kids about what is happening to them. Not only that, but he also does his best to fix their hearing problems. He is truly worthy of the title, “hear-o.”

“Gosh, it’s really fun to feel like I made a meaningful difference for people that I help take care of,” Dr. Puricelli said.