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Loud and proud to give deaf kids the gift of sound and speech.

Jo and Felix.

By JO WILLIAMS

When our beautiful son Felix was born, the last thing that crossed our minds was that he might be deaf. When Felix was diagnosed with profound hearing loss there were a raft of emotions, closely followed by a barrage of questions we couldn’t answer – would he ever hear our voices? Would he learn to speak? What would his life be like?

Like other newborns, Felix was screened as part of the NSW State-wide Infant Screening – Hearing (SWISH) program; his hearing was flagged as a potential problem.  He was screened again a few days later and still showed no response to sound. A couple of weeks later we drove up to Sydney for more tests. We watched the audiologist’s computer screen and hoped for any kind of response. Nothing.

I’ll never forget the definitive words from the audiologist, ‘your son cannot hear’.

That’s the hardest part of all, having your worst fears confirmed. Our beautiful son had a profound hearing loss.

At that point, my husband and I weren’t sure what would come next. But, with the help of The Shepherd Centre, we began to find our feet. We learned about an Australian invention called the Cochlear implant. Felix trialled hearing aids, but their amplification of sound did nothing for him. We started early intervention therapy, to teach him how to listen and speak, but he wasn’t yet hearing.

Felix was three and a half months old when he was assessed as suitable for a Cochlear Implant, however we had to wait until he was five months old, the youngest age the surgeon would operate. At five months of age, Felix had the surgery to implant the bilateral Cochlear devices.

The surgery was tough. Putting my baby on the theatre table and watching him go under anaesthetic was incredibly difficult. But being told four hours later by the surgeon that it was a complete success made it all worth it.

The switch on, where the external processor is fitted, was a couple of weeks later (see the footage here) and when the audiologist turned on the sound Felix just stopped sucking on his dummy and looked around the room as if to say, “What was that ? ” When his dad spoke, he looked straight at him as if he knew. When we saw that, we jumped straight back into therapy with renewed enthusiasm, and we have been hard at it ever since.  Now four, Felix’s progress has been incredible. He is a chatter box and an absolute joy, and the Shepherd Centre has helped us through every step of the way.

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Felix has profound hearing loss.

What I love about The Shepherd Centre is their holistic approach. Auditory verbal therapy is at the core of their services, however the support network is also critical. Audiologists, social workers and therapists all work to together as a team. It’s been very reassuring that it was the same group of people throughout this process and that they are leading the world in their research and the programs they offer.

Even though Felix will never hear what we hear (the sounds produced by the Cochlear Implant can’t fully replicate the richness of the human voice), you’d never realise it from his crystal clear speech. Felix is now joking, chatting, singing and hearing more than we could ever have hoped.

I don’t know what Felix’s future could have been, would have been or might have been. However I know that he definitely has the best chance with the help we’ve received from The Shepherd Centre.

Only a small percentage of the funding for these centres is provided by the Federal and State Governments. The majority of funding is raised via donations and fundraising initiatives like Loud Shirt Day.

Please help give the gift of sound and speech. Register or make a donation at www.loudshirtday.com.au and wear your support this October.

I am mum to two beautiful children who simply amaze me every day. After almost 20 years in IT, I decided to spend my time with my babies instead, helping my daughter explore her world, and teaching my son to listen and speak. Some days I wish he wasn’t quite so good at the speaking. As there is a LOT of it. But he’s a lot more fun than IT.

The Shepherd Centre is one of Australia’s leading providers of speech and language services for children with hearing loss, currently assisting more than 370 deaf children annually at its four centres. On October 18, the charity will host its annual fundraiser, Loud Shirt Day, to raise much-needed funds for its nationally-renowned program assisting deaf kids. Register or make a donation here.

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