Mum of 18-month-old with hearing loss urges Aussies to listen up
At just two weeks old, Valentina was diagnosed with severe to profound hearing loss in both ears.
Now, mum Kiara, is sharing their journey to raise awareness and provide hope to other families who are facing childhood hearing loss.
"It felt like our whole life was shattered," Kiara tells Yahoo Lifestyle.
“We found out about Valentina’s hearing loss when she failed her newborn screening test. Not passing the screening test isn’t that unusual - sometimes there can be fluid in the ear at this age.”
However, further tests showed baby Valentina actually had severe to profound hearing loss in both ears.
“We didn’t know anyone apart from an elderly relative who had hearing loss - this was life-changing news," Kiara remembers.
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“We were wondering what life would be like for her? How would we communicate with her? What would this diagnosis mean for Valentina's life?
“Initially, we were told she would need hearing aids, however we were also told they’d be unlikely to work. The medical team then discussed the possibility of cochlear implants.
“There was a time of limbo and uncertainty where Valentina was going through tests and then getting her cochlear implants. To some extent we still don’t necessarily know how much she hears or how much her language will develop.”
Support through the unknown
When Valentina was diagnosed, Kiara says they had a lot of support groups reaching out to them, and they were connected through their surgeon with First Voice alliance centre, Next Sense.
“Through them we learnt that life would be okay - that Valentina would be able to grow up and have a normal life," she tells us.
“A social worker from NextSense even came out to our house, which helped so much through COVID (when getting to appointments was hard). She answered all our questions - even those we didn't know if we could ask.
“As I often say, I don’t know what I don’t know and they help me to find out what I need to know.”
Valentina’s cochlear implants life-changing
With the level of hearing loss Valentina had before her cochlear implant, Kiara says they were told she would only be able to pick up very loud sounds like a jet plane or a lawn mower.
“However, with her cochlear implant she now picks up nearly all speech sounds and even the sound of the fridge humming," she explains.
“It’s just amazing, she’ll hear a soft sound and point to her ear to tell us ‘I heard that’. She even hears quiet sounds that I don’t notice, like the clock ticking - things I take for granted hearing.
“And, before the implants, Valentina wasn’t vocal, but recently she’s started laughing with sound.
“We continue to have weekly therapy sessions through NextSense, which helps her with her hearing and speech and also helps us as parents to know how to help her the most and what to focus on at home to build her skills.”
Kiara’s message to other families dealing with childhood hearing loss
“I want you to know that it will be okay, and that other people are on the journey with you," she says.
“What helped us hugely was meeting another family with a child with similar hearing loss to Valentina’s, and seeing him speak clearly - it was the reassuring factor we needed to know that she will be okay.”
This Hearing Awareness Week (March 1 to 7, 2022), First Voice are challenging the public to increase their understanding on how recent advances in technology, such as cochlear implants and hearing aids, are drastically reshaping outcomes for Australians with hearing loss.
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