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"Our daughter was diagnosed with hearing loss and we were speechless."

Shaun and Melissa Crotty, with their daughters Alexis and Amara.

By MELISSA CROTTY

That day my husband Shaun and I looked across at each other, speechless. Neither of us had seen this one coming.

Amara, our eldest daughter, had just undergone extensive screening for hearing loss at an early intervention centre in Melbourne and we had just been told she had hearing loss.

Just like all parents who see their child for the first time, we fell head over heels in love as soon as we saw Amara. She passed all the newborn screening tests with flying colours, and we – two proud as punch parents – took our brand new daughter home feeling that nothing could go wrong with the world.

It wasn’t until some probing from the maternal nurse a few weeks later that the possibility that Amara having hearing loss even occurred to us.

Amara was diagnosed with a mild-moderate hearing loss at eight weeks of age at Taralye, a not-for-profit organisation providing early intervention services to children with hearing loss, teaching them to listen and speak.

Being confronted with the fact that your child cannot hear as other children can isn’t an uncommon experience. Most parents (around 92%) that give birth to children with hearing loss have (?good) hearing themselves.

Suddenly, there you are, thrust into a situation you don’t understand with a rollercoaster of emotions that you probably wouldn’t have encountered otherwise. Will my child do well in school, will they build normal friendships at school, and will I ever hear them say “Mummy” for the first time?

At twelve weeks Amara was fitted with hearing aids at Australian Hearing. She loved her hearing aids from the first moment she put them on. Shaun and I can’t remember what we first said to Amara when she could actually hear us, but her face lit up with the brightest smile that we knew hearing aids had been the right decision.

“It wasn’t until some probing from the maternal nurse a few weeks later that the possibility that Amara having hearing loss even occurred to us.”

From that day on Shaun, Amara  and I actively engaged in Taralye’s early intervention program, commuting 40 minutes to Taralye four times a week so that Amara could learn how to listen and speak. We could see over the next few months how much Amara’s confidence was blooming, how much more connected she was with us and her environment.

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One day, when we were well and truly familiar with Amara’s therapy and beginning to see great progress, we were asked to take part in a research project for First Voice (the coalition of early intervention centres around Australia and New Zealand) called Sound Connections. It was a study investigating the social benefits of early intervention for children with hearing loss.

Having been through the experience first hand, I wanted to contribute to research that could comfort thousands of Australian parents whose child had been diagnosed with hearing loss, I wanted to be part of putting some of their fears and anxieties to rest.

The results of the study were recently announced. It has shown that early intervention in listening and spoken language skills for children with hearing loss, like what we have done with Amara at Taralye, not only gives most children in the program an average language performance standard score compared to hearing children, but also that these children will usually experience the same levels of social inclusion as their hearing peers.

I don’t need a study to confirm it for me, I have absolutely no doubt that enrolling Amara into early intervention for spoken language at three months is the reason she is the outgoing, bright and bubbly social butterfly that she is today. Now so many parents can be reassured knowing that there are programs out there that can help hearing impaired kids succeed just as much as their peers, and can flourish the way our Amara was able to.

I am a mum of two girls, Amara and Alexis. Amara has a hearing loss and has been wearing hearing aids since she was 3 months old. My husband and I have been committed since this time to providing her with the best early intervention possible. It has been hard at times, the constant appointments and sessions with specialists, however well worth it. She is now a well spoken and happy child who will be attending the local primary school next year.

First Voice is the national voice for member organisations whose primary focus is the provision of listening and spoken language therapy services in Australia and New Zealand. First Voice champions the right of all deaf people to listen and speak. Information about the Sound Connections research project and First Voice centres can be found here.  

Tags: mamamia-cares , health-and-wellbeing
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