Champion - Neil Maes

National Spelling Bee Contestant • Advocate

From: Belton, SC

School Involvement

Even though Neil has hearing loss, he is still active with school activities. He participates in library club, plays upward basketball, and even made his school news! He also plays piano, and is an Honor Roll student. Neil has won his Elementary School's Spelling Bee two times and in May 2016, he competed in the Scripps National Spelling Bee. He continues to inspire others and let them know hearing loss doesn't hinder success.

Neil says his biggest role models are his parents stating, "My parents are responsible, smart, and they are good parents. I want to be like them when I grow up and be a great parent myself."

Overcoming Hearing Loss

Neil first experienced hearing loss at birth due to a genetic mutation; however, he now has cochlear implants. He received his first cochlear implant at the age of 1, and received his second implant at the age of 5. When Neil's parents heard about The HearStrong Foundation, they were interested in helping him share his story, and are pleased to inspire those with hearing loss.

Neil's parents wanted him to hear immediately. "We wanted him to be able to interact with anyone he encountered with spoken language, and to reach his highest potential. We wanted him to be able to listen to music, birds singing, running water, and the wind blowing through the trees."

Neil states, "I can now hear my friends, and talk to them instead of using Sign Language. I can interact with many more people verbally, than if I just used ASL."

A Parent's Perspective

Since Neil was diagnosed deaf at birth, his parents suggest that anyone unsure about seeking assistance should research all available options. "Information is power. Being well-informed gives you the knowledge you need to make the best decisions for you"

"I knew God had given Neil an aptitude for learning, and I knew that winning the spelling bee was a possibility," says Neil’s mom. “I thought this platform would be great to help other people—other children—with hearing loss. I want them to feel good about their hearing aids or their cochlear implants, and to feel like they can make and meet goals.

Why Neil Is A HearStrong Champion

Neil says he would love being a HearStrong Champion because, "I can share my story, inspire people, and let them know they can do anything they set their minds to."

Facing hearing loss since birth, Neil continues to pursue his dreams and reach his highest potential. After winning the Anderson Independent Mail Regional Spelling Bee, Neil qualified for the 2016 Scripps National Spelling Bee. He continues to be an advocate for those with hearing loss, and still manages to excel personally and academically, even at the age of 11.

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