FINCASTLE, Va. – Five-year-old Emmalyn Cooney is battling conductive hearing loss.
"It feels like a bee stinging me,” said Cooney.
Her mother, Tamra Peake, said you wouldn't be able to tell by Emma's smile that she's struggling.
"She will wake up screaming from the pain,” said Peake.
Emma has suffered from ear infections since she was 2.
Just this week, she had her tonsils removed and had ear tubes put in to help prevent infections.
Those procedures are expected to cost Peake thousands of dollars. She is a disabled veteran and Emma is not covered on her insurance.
“I will eat the debt. I'll go into it and pay for it for the rest of my life as long as she can hear and feel better,” said Peake.
Thirty-four million children in the U.S. suffer from disabling hearing loss, according to the World Health Organization.
Across the globe, 466 million people have some form of hearing problem and that number keeps growing. It has increased more than 20 percent in the last five years.
WSLS 10 spoke with Dr. Brian Gross, an ear and nose specialist at Lewis Gale Medical Center.
He said a child who is failing to meet speech milestones likely has hearing problems.
“For kids who are losing their hearing and could potentially need tubes is because of recurrent ear infections or, most commonly, fluid getting trapped into the middle ear and failing to clear, and placing the tubes into the patient is often curative,” Gross said.
Peake wants two things: a cure for Emma and a way to pay for it.
She has set up a GoFundMe page to help with some of the medical bills.
“I want to do whatever I can to have her experience the world as it should be experienced,” said Peake.