'I Really Want to Help' (Exclusive): This CEO, 24, Is Launching a Foundation for the Hard of Hearing Community

Gianna “Gigi” Caruso is focused on the hear and now

Published Time: 14.05.2024 - 20:31:12 Modified Time: 14.05.2024 - 20:31:12

Gianna “Gigi” Caruso is focused on the hear and now.

The 24 year-old CEO, founder and creative director of Gigi C, a swimwear line she launched at just 16 years old, has started another new venture: a foundation for those with hearing loss.

Caruso, who was born with bilateral sensorineural hearing loss, officially launched Hear With You on May 14, and she tells PEOPLE she’s just getting started.

“I have a million ideas of what I want to do,” says Caruso, whose hearing loss is a common type that stems from damage to the inner ear. “It's been such a passion project of mine, and I've just enjoyed every second of putting it together. My parents always taught us to give back, and I genuinely loved the idea of a foundation and was so excited about it.”

Caruso says that her parents are not only her biggest supporters, but also two of her greatest inspirations when it comes to developing a mission for Hear With You, which will work primarily with young children.

According to the National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, more than 90% of deaf children are born to hearing parents.

“These parents have never experienced hearing loss before. They don't know what to do. I know my parents were so scared about me. How was I going to grow up? What schools should they put me in? What resources did I need to thrive in school? They had never gone through this before, so they didn't even have a community of parents they could talk to, and that's what I want to create for a lot of parents here," says Caruso.

Working with children is important to the entrepreneur for a number of reasons, one of which being that she wants to help provide the tools and resources to others who may need them as soon as possible. 

“I love working with kids and I think it's so important to get to kids with hearing loss right off the bat as young as you can, because it's so important that they have the resources they need to thrive in life and in school. They need the right hearing aids,” she says. “That's why I really want to start working with these kids at a young age, to really teach them how to advocate for themselves.”

The May 14 launch date is also personally significant to Caruso: it marks 10 years and a day since her “life changed” when she received her Phonak Lyric hearing -

aids, which, because of where the device sits in relation to her eardrum, enabled her to hear so many more sounds than she had growing up.

Caruso was fitted with her first pair of standard hearing aids at just 3 months old, and being a child with hearing loss left her feeling “isolated," she recalls. The Lyric hearing aids are instead installed exclusively inside the ear canal, making them imperceptible to others. 

“Before that, I never really understood how much I was missing out on, and I'll never forget that day when I went and I brought my best friend and my parents and I got it inserted. I heard my voice clearly for the first time. I immediately broke down,” Caruso says of the moment.

She adds: “I heard my dog's claws on the floor. I heard rain for the first time. There's so many things that I wasn't even aware of that I was missing out on. It's been so special and I feel like I'm even figuring out more sounds 10 years later, just little things that I haven't thought of. So, the timing is perfect. I've learned so much throughout my journey about hearing loss and how to support people, and I'm just ready to give back with everything I've learned.”

Caruso says her favorite sounds now are those of the water — rain, waves — and she also loves to just be in the water, where she can go to relax in the quiet.

“Sometimes it can be overwhelming because I wasn't used to hearing everything. So, I love going in the water and swimming for so many reasons, but one, because I can take out my hearing aids and not hear anything and just kind of have an escape from the world and a break from reality," she explains. "And it's the best feeling ever, to have water through my ears or the wind in my ears, because I'm not usually feeling that."

As for the future of her new foundation, she's focused on helping as many people as possible.

“It's been a dream of mine, and I just can't wait to see it come to life and to be able to help so many people. I'm so excited for the launch event that's going to happen, to meet even more kids with hearing loss and just connect with them and the parents," she says. "This just is all coming from the heart, and I couldn't be more excited."

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