Twenty-month-old Tommy is a busy bee with his days filled with playing dress ups, climbing on the playgrounds and zooming down the slide at the park. Tommy also loves to play with his siblings, racing his older brother Archie on the bike and cuddling his baby brother Theo, the newest addition to the family.
Tommy was born with a mild hearing loss in both ears which progressed to a severe to profound loss by the time he was six months old.
“When Tommy initially didn’t pass his first hearing screening at the hospital, we were a little worried. However, they reassured us that it was really common for newborns not to pass, and that he might just have fluid in his ears and scheduled a follow up hearing screening a few days later,” Alynta said.
“When Tommy didn’t pass the follow-up hearing screen, they referred us an audiologist who discovered Tommy had a mild hearing loss in both ears that was slightly worse in the left ear.”
Receiving confirmation on what was going on with their little baby was a relief for Alynta and Zac; they then knew Tommy would have to wear a hearing aid on one ear.
As part of the series of tests Tommy had at birth, a heel prick sample was taken to see if they could find out the cause of his hearing loss, having no history in the family. The results revealed that Alynta had caught Cytomegalovirus (CMV) during her pregnancy.
“We had never heard of CMV before this and once we started doing some research, we were grateful that Tommy only had a mild hearing loss from it as it could have been a lot worse for him,” Alynta said.
“While doing some research, I found out that with the hearing loss being from CMV it could deteriorate over time, which really worried us,” she said.
When he reached about six months old, Alynta and Zac started to question whether Tommy’s hearing was getting worse– they’d noticed they weren’t getting any reaction to sounds from Tommy.
Over the course of next few months Tommy had more hearing tests – from Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR) to a MRI and a CT Scan – eventually showing that his mild hearing loss was now a severe to profound hearing loss and that he was a candidate for cochlear implants.
“While it was tough for us learning that Tommy’s hearing had worsened, we knew that the best thing for him would be to be accepted as candidate for cochlear implants. It felt like a long process that kept needing more tests which was frustrating and tiring at times,” Alynta said.
“Each time we would get results, we’d be nervous but after the final tests, the ENT said Tommy was an ideal candidate for cochlear implant surgery – we were so relieved and happy for our boy,” she said.
Tommy had bilateral cochlear implant surgery in October 2021 and his implants were switched on to sound at Hear and Say’s centre on the Gold Coast for the first time in early November.
“The switch on day was so special to us and it was such a relief that all the testing and pushing for more answers was over and we could move forward with a positive outlook on Tommy’s future,” said Alynta.
“The whole process from switch on, to MAPping (a six-monthly cochlear implant programming process), to speech therapy has been so easy and helpful. There was, and still is so much we didn’t know about cochlear implants and Greer, our audiologist at Hear and Say has been amazing.
“We love that she is always there for us, and we can touch base with any issues or questions we have. She will help us and reassure us that we are all doing an amazing job and complements Tommy on how great he is adjusting to his “new ears”.
“It’s been a slower process for Tommy to learn to hear that we expected, and we have all cried at times because it can be overwhelming and frustrating. It’s easy to think, ‘now he has cochlear implants he will hear’ but there’s so much more that goes into it, Tommy has to work to learn to hear. We know that this is going to change Tommy’s life and he can live a typical hearing life.”
The family first came to Hear and Say the year prior when Tommy was about six months old for specialised speech therapy.
“At first we thought Tommy still only had a mild hearing loss so we didn’t know how much we would get out of therapy,” Alynta said.
“It wasn’t until Tommy had his [cochlear implant] switch on that we realised how important it is for him to have weekly speech therapy. We love reading stories about people who are now adults and were implanted around the same age as Tommy – it gives us so much hope for his future.”
Now a few months post switch on, Alynta reflected on Tommy’s development and progression.
“Tommy’s therapy so far is going great – we see more and more results every week from him. He’s starting to make noises and sounds. Today during our lesson with Greer, he repeated “Moo” and it was so rewarding to watch him,” said Alynta.
“He’s such a funny, cheeky little guy and I can’t wait until we hear him talking and engaging in a conversation with us.”