“We’re so excited to see Willow develop her speech with the beautiful gift of cochlear implants.” – Ami, mum to two-year-old Willow.

Willow lives on the Gold Coast with her mum Ami and dad Jesse, and her weeks are filled with lots of her favourite activities and people.

“Willow loves to dance, run on the beach, draw, sing in the car to her favourite songs, paint and she especially loves playing with her cousins,” said Ami.

Shortly after she was born, Willow was diagnosed with hearing loss in both ears – picked up through the newborn hearing screening.

Willow At The Beach

Willow was born with cytomegalovirus (CMV) which meant her hearing loss declined throughout her first few months and at around seven months she was diagnosed with a profound loss.

“We felt extremely overwhelmed with so many different emotions, and we were just in overall shock. We had no history in our families of hearing loss, so we both felt a bit lost in a way,” said Ami.

During this whirlwind time, thanks to the power of social media and the kindness of their networks Ami and Jesse found out about Hear and Say.

“We were lucky enough to have a beautiful family reach out to us over Facebook, they told us all about Hear and Say. Their daughter received services there and they highly recommended we get in touch with their lovely staff,” said Ami.

Willow started to come along to Hear and Say, having speech therapy lessons and then at 10 months old, she got a cochlear implant.

“Hear and say have been our rocks through Willow’s hearing journey, they supported us through speech therapy, audiology and have always been there to answer any questions or concerns we had. They have been exceptional in every way, and we’d feel so lost without them,” said Ami.

For parents, it can be a big challenge to keep hearing devices on their child as young children tend to pull them off quite often.

“We’ve had many ups and downs with Willow going through stages of wanting to wear her cochlear implants and then not wanting to wear them,” said Ami.

“With help from Hear and Say and our amazing speech therapist Greer, we have learnt so many great ways to engage Willow to wear her cochlear implants and do therapy in fun ways at home,” she said.

Teaching a child with hearing loss to learn to hear and speak really is a journey that involves the whole family and Ami is excited to watch her daughter grow, learn and have unlimited opportunities.

“Willow is really loving the process with learning to listen, hear and speak and she has made such incredible progress,” said Ami.

“Early in her cochlear implant journey, Willow couldn’t focus on environmental sounds like birds, aeroplanes and cars. Now when she hears a plane fly over, she points and pretends to be one.

“We want to give Willow as many opportunities in life as we can and being able to hear and speak will benefit her in so many ways.”

Img Willow In Lesson

“He’s an active, funny, sporty likeable kid who just happens to have a hearing loss. He doesn’t let his hearing loss stop him from achieving what he wants to.” – Rosie, mum to 11-year-old Will.

Having passed his newborn hearing screen, Will was diagnosed with hearing loss at about nine months old.

“As Will was hitting the usual milestones for his age in terms of babbling, I expected him to pass the follow up testing,” said Rosie.

“Because of our family history of hearing loss, Will was scheduled to have six-monthly hearing tests until he was three. His older brother Lachlan passed these tests so I expected Will to as well,” she said.

Will At Sports Carnival

“I was actually quite shocked to hear Will had a hearing loss and I cried for about two weeks. I was sad for Will, worried about what his future would hold and how much his hearing loss would affect his daily life. I was also worried about how it would affect us as a family in terms of the services and support we’d need to access to help him.

“I was concerned he would be judged and teased and just didn’t want this for my little boy.”

Will was fitted with hearing aids in 2012 and the family met Hear and Say’s team in Townsville, starting telehealth speech therapy in 2013.

“It was difficult at first as we felt alone and isolated, living in Townsville away from family and not knowing anyone with a child with hearing loss. We didn’t really know what lay ahead,” said Rosie.

“Once we started regular lessons with Hear and Say, we had the opportunity to meet with Will’s speech therapist in-person, as well as other families, when we visited the Brisbane centre a couple of times a year.

“We had weekly, and then fortnightly lessons until he finished Prep. They were so engaging and catered to Will’s interests which made a huge difference.

“Hear and Say provided a wonderful service for Will but also for Andrew and I as parents to help Will outside of his lessons.

“Through Hear and Say, we had access to amazing therapists as well as a support network of other parents of children with a hearing loss. It meant we didn’t have to feel alone and Will also knew there were other kids out there just like him.”

In 2017 Will started school in Warwick, who were supported in ensuring that Will didn’t miss out on anything his hearing peers could hear.

“This was one of my early fears so I was so grateful they were on board from the start. Will’s hearing loss has been part of his school journey and the kids in his class have always been accepting of it. They even used to remind the teacher that the Roger FM was on mute!” said Rosie.

Now 11 years old, Will loves to spend time outdoors riding motorbikes, camping, going to the beach and hanging out with his friends. Will also loves to play hockey, cricket, touch football and athletics at school. He loves listening to music and watching the football as a mad North Queensland Cowboys supporter.

“I love that he can communicate verbally (even though he’s a little shy!) and that he has an interest in music,” said Rosie.

Will Playing Hocky

“Will overcame his shyness recently taking part in the school Choral Verse Speaking group that competed at the district eisteddfod and won their category,” she said.

“I am so proud of him for taking that step and overcoming his fear of speaking in public.

“We are so appreciative of the support of the amazing donors and benefactors who have supported Hear and Say to allow us to take part in the extra opportunities. We are so grateful for Dimity and her foresight in starting Hear and Say three decades ago so that kids like Will are able to achieve wonderful things.”

“I love being able to hear and wouldn’t have it any other way. I’ve always felt and believed that my disability doesn’t define me, it’s only a part of me, and has contributed to who I am today.” – Ruby, 19 years old.

Ruby is the oldest of three, studying a diploma of photography and photo imaging and has a myriad of creative hobbies.

“I love cooking, especially baking, it brings me so much joy. I love creating my own recipes and learning about different cuisines,” said Ruby.

“One of my main hobbies is photography, it’s one of my favourite things to do. I love the creativity and fun of it, the different ways I can use my lighting, perspective and focus on the smaller things in life.”

Ruby was born before the Universal Newborn Hearing Screening was implemented and was diagnosed with profound hearing loss at six months old.

Ruby With Her Parents

“My parents often tell this story as one of the most important and life-changing memories they’ve had,” said Ruby.

“When I was six months old they came into my bedroom, I was sitting up in my cot facing away from them. They came in all excited to see me but when I didn’t turn around to their calls they knew something wasn’t right,” she said.

“My parents went to multiple specialists and GPs and it was when Dr Dimity Dornan AO called that our lives changed forever. Dimity told them that it was possible for me to hear and to learn to listen and speak. My parents met with Dimity later and never turned back.”

By the time Ruby was one year old she was learning to listen through her cochlear implant on her right side. At this time babies with hearing loss on both sides only received one cochlear implant. As further research came out about the benefits of hearing through both ears, this process changed. When Ruby was four years old she got a cochlear implant on her left side too.  

“Today I go to Hear and Say every six months for a new program for my cochlear implants and every 12 months for assessments,” said Ruby.

“As a young kid I attended Hear and Say’s playgroup where I met amazing friends who are just like me. We built a wonderful friendship group, and this is something I will have forever.

“Hear and Say also had the most amazing opportunities to attend workshops for all ages in the school holidays. I cannot recommend these workshops enough, they have helped me grow as a person, meet new people, and build tighter bonds with the friends I made through these workshops.

Looking back on her school experience Ruby says it wasn’t always easy but is thankful for the people who helped her along the way.

“Despite having bilateral cochlear implants, I still struggled at school. It was huge, doing six hours a day of non-stop listening, concentrating, socialising, and trying to ensure I didn’t miss anything,” said Ruby.

“I struggled with friends and feeling like I didn’t totally fit in, it was hard to keep up with conversations in a busy playground or in a noisy classroom with lots of people talking at once,” she said.

Ruby With Friends At Her School Formal

“Although these were challenges, there were more highs than lows and I had the most amazing teachers who did everything they could to help me.

“The most important thing I did was to introduce myself to my teachers and explain my hearing loss, the challenges I go through and strategies to help me,” said Ruby.

From the classroom to the stage, to the pool – Ruby was right there with her siblings and friends.

“As a kid I did dancing, including ballet and jazz and I absolutely loved it,” said Ruby.

“I also really enjoyed swimming and did it for a long time. When the aqua ear came out, I loved it even more, hearing the water move as I did each stroke. When I first tried this new accessory that allowed me to wear my cochlear implant in the water, I distinctly remember saying to dad, ‘the water has sound! I can hear the water!’.”

Img Ruby Practicing Photography

After reflecting on her journey so far there are many things that continue to amaze Ruby, like her ability to pop on her cochlear implant processer and hear the world, or the fact that all those years ago her parents received a life-changing phone call.

“I don’t know where I would be today if Dimity hadn’t called my parents or created such an incredible foundation for kids to have every opportunity they deserve,” she said.

Looking ahead, Ruby shares her advice to parents who have just found out their baby has a hearing loss.

“This new chapter is a tough and scary beginning but there are so many opportunities you can create for your child. They do have the ability to learn to listen and speak, go to their local school, make friends and be a kid,” said Ruby

“They can be anyone they want to be.”

Elspeth is a four-year-old who is thriving at pre-prep, but it has been a journey for her and her family to get to this point.

Her weeks are filled with dancing, swimming, trips to the beach and rainforest explorations.

“Elspeth is our little mermaid who loves the water or playing in the sand. She can draw or colour-in for hours on end and enjoys playing make believe with her brother,” said Amy, Elspeth’s mum.

Today Elspeth has hit her stride but her parents reflect on the many steps taken to get to this point. 

Elspeth At The Beach

While pregnant with Elspeth and on holiday in Melbourne, Amy and Alastair were suddenly faced with the emergency caesarean birth of their baby girl.

Delighted to meet their beautiful baby girl, it was also a difficult start for the young family. Elspeth was born with two rare conditions known as microtia and atresia, which affect the formation of her ear and ear canal as well as hearing.

“When Elspeth was born, it was immediately obvious that something was wrong with her ear.

At the time we didn’t know exactly what this would mean for her and our family, but we knew about the incredible outcomes possible for children with hearing loss as both Amy and I work in medical professions,” said Alastair.

After finding out about their daughter’s hearing loss, Amy and Alastair were determined to do everything to give Elspeth the support she needed to help her learn to hear and speak. Upon returning to Queensland they turned to Hear and Say in Toowoomba, where they were living at the time.

At three months old Elspeth was fitted with a Bone-Anchored Hearing Aid (BAHA) on her right side which used vibrations to transfer sound directly to the cochlear.

“Being able to hear means Elspeth can participate in group activities and build social connections as she starts her education,” said Amy.

“Hear and Say has made a huge difference for us, from teaching us as parents how to communicate well with Elspeth, to providing language and listening strategies for her,” said Alastair.

After the family made a sea change, Elspeth started going to fortnightly sessions at Hear and Say on the Gold Coast to continue to develop her listening and speaking skills and early literacy.

Her school has also installed a Roger sound system in her classroom to ensure she has access to sound to enhance her education.

“Elspeth is smashing her speech and language goals and her confidence is soaring,” said Amy.

Thanks to hearing technology and specialised speech therapy Elspeth’s ability to hear and speak means she can have a special relationship with Amy’s parents who live interstate, they regularly talk on Skype.

Elspeth Dancing

“It is so important to me that both my kids have a relationship with my parents, and I am so grateful that modern technologies and services have made this possible,” said Amy.

“As parents, Hear and Say has equipped us with all the tools to ensure Elspeth continues to thrive.”

“Elspeth has developed her language skills wonderfully. I always say to people that her hearing loss is not a limiting factor in her success at school or anywhere else in life,” said Alastair.

He was right! Elspeth’s progress is nothing short of amazing.

From singing along with Disney Princess Moana, to gymnastics lessons, to exploring outside with her friends at Kindy – Georgia is an energetic three-year-old with many interests.

“Georgia loves playing with dinosaurs and Lego, and going shopping or out for babychinos with me or her grandma and Aunty,” said Shay, Georgia’s mum.

Just after Georgia was born, she was diagnosed with hearing loss picked up through the Newborn Hearing Screening.

 

Georgia

“There was a lot of processing to be done, the various stages of a kind of grief for our own expectations. Her dad and I were unsure about Georgia’s future and what it would look like,” said Shay.

Georgia has a profound hearing loss, and when her parents started to look into cochlear implants as an option, they were put in contact with Hear and Say on the Gold Coast.  

“Most of the world communicates verbally so I felt that it was important for Georgia to be part of that if possible,” said Shay.

“We wanted to be able to give her all the opportunities that her friends and family got. I really wanted Georgia to be able to experience everything that the world had to offer,” she said.

When Georgia was nine months old she had surgery for a cochlear implant and had them switched on for the first time. Since then she has grown into bubbly little girl and developed an incredible vocabulary, exceeding her parents’ expectations.

“Georgia has so many words, it shocks people when they realise she has the cochlear implants. Georgia is always kicking goals and loves wearing her ‘ears’ (except when she hears the word no!),” said Shay

“From being at the start of an unknown journey with a baby with a profound hearing loss to here watching Georgia grow in leaps and bounds, it’s mind blowing how far she has come,” she said.

To achieve the incredible outcomes of listening and speaking takes a lot of hard work. Georgia and her family have undertaken regular speech therapy and audiology appointments at Hear and Say to make this a reality. 

“Hear and say has made a huge difference, from the support upon the initial diagnosis of hearing loss, to the weekly speech therapy lessons we have. Georgia really enjoys going to her lessons and loves everyone there,” said Shay

“My hope for Georgia’s future is that she is happy and confident, I hope she can meet and surpass all her goals, that she has friends, experiences and really enjoys life.

“We are looking forward to seeing her grow and develop into a well-rounded little person.”

Georgia Playing

Julia has the world at her fingertips – growing up in Brisbane, now she works as a senior manager of communications and marketing while studying for her Honours in psychology online while living in Canada.

A number of areas of study have piqued Julia’s interest, first a Bachelor of Design followed by a Graduate Diploma in psychology.

“After graduating from uni and working in media and advertising agencies for a few years, I decided to travel and see what the world had to offer. I left Australia in May 2011 and backpacked in Asia, Europe, and North America for six months,” said Julia.  

Julia Overseas

“The final stop on my round-the-world ticket was Vancouver, Canada and as I have dual Australian-Canadian citizenship I thought I would stick around for a year or two before returning back to Brisbane,” said Julia.

“I found a job and a place to live in Vancouver – and I’m still living here ten years later!”

Rewind over 30 years to 1986 when Julia was just 14 months old and her parents had just found out their daughter had a severe hearing loss.  

“I am the only deaf person in my family so Mum and Dad chose to teach me to listen and speak with the hope that I could attend mainstream schools and have access to the same opportunities as my sister and hearing peers,” said Julia.

As one of the very first children to walk through Hear and Say’s doors (known as the Mouse House back then) the centre holds a very special place in Julia and her family’s hearts.

“I was fitted with hearing aids and began seeing Dimity at 16 months old, after we were introduced via the Shepherd Centre in Sydney,” said Julia.

“At the time the centre was in Toowong. I came in often for speech therapy until I was five and a half years old. I was one of Dimity’s early babies, before the Hear and Say Centre was born,” she said.

 “My earliest memories are of visiting Dimity in Toowong. I remember appointments were always lots of fun, with plenty of toys and games and books. I also remember Mac the Mouse and the Mouse House quite clearly, as well as all the excitement of building and moving into larger premises.”

Julia’s hearing started to worsen and at 10 years old she underwent surgery for a cochlear implant – at this time it was standard practice to only implant on one side.

“I went back to Hear and Say after I received my first cochlear implant in 1995 to learn how to listen with it,” she said.  

“I remember coming home after my implant was switched on and hearing the fallen leaves on our front lawn crunch under my feet for the first time. I still love that sound.”

When Julia was 24 years old she received a second implant in her left ear.

Julia With Dimity
Img Julia Travel

“Surprisingly, I hear better out of my second implant despite waiting for so long before having it implanted. I found learning to listen with it much easier than I had with my first implant.”

Julia loves to travel and make the most of living in Canada. She also loves to read, spend time outdoors and try out the cafes and restaurants Vancouver has to offer. Julia reflected on the difference hearing has made to her life.

“Being able to listen and speak has opened up the world for me. It’s given me independence and the ability to freely communicate with others and follow my interests,” said Julia.

“Dimity and Hear and Say gave my parents the tools they needed to help me learn to listen and speak and it has made all the difference in my life. I feel incredibly privileged to have been born at the time and place that I was, where we had access to auditory-verbal therapy and modern hearing technology,” she said.

Two-year-old Freya from Townsville is quite the ballerina, off to the local studio each week, performing on stage at concerts and practising for exams with her older sister, Arianna.

“Freya has come out of her shell since she started ballet – she is incredibly reserved and it took a number of weeks before she would even attempt the classes,” Freya’s mum, Emily said.

Giving Day, Girl Smiling

At three months old, Freya was diagnosed with a mild hearing loss which professionals had hoped would remain steady, however by 12 months old her hearing loss had progressed.

“Freya initially wore a bone conduction hearing aid due to issues with fluid in her ear. When she was 13 months old and the fluid was improving, she was fitted with her first pair of hearing aids,” Emily said.

Finding out about Freya’s hearing loss and the experiences that followed felt like a rollercoaster of emotions for the family.

“Due to the floods some of our family were displaced, some were away and others were around children who were unwell, we didn’t have many family members able to visit when Freya was a newborn. We mostly kept the news she’d failed her hospital hearing screening to ourselves,” said Emily.

On the first newborn hearing screen Freya was referred on for further testing of her right ear.

“Freya had a second test and failed on both ears this time. We were still advised it was most likely fluid, however a failure on both ears could indicate a hearing loss.

“I remember feeling so hopeless and alone, my husband wasn’t able to visit as he was caring for our other children, so I was in hospital on my own trying to make sense of it all.

“Our first two children passed on the first test, so this was new for us. I had started to suspect Freya did have a hearing loss due to her nature – she was the most quiet baby, and apart from birth she only cried on one occasion during our hospital stay.”

The family met with an audiologist at the Townsville University Hospital when Freya was three months old for an ABR test to confirm if Freya had hearing loss.

“I can remember the room clearly, and black leather chair I sat in. It was a small room with a door that had a tiny window with a blind. It took two hours to do the test, and at the end the audiologist quietly said, ‘I’m sorry to say she has a hearing loss in both ears, worse in the right ear’,” Emily said.

“I remember looking at my husband and silently crying. It was the unknown of what we faced and what our daughter would face.

Freya With Backpack

“My husband held me in the car park and we both cried. It was the one and only time he has ever cried about Freya – Matthew is the strong one.

“When our daughter Arianna was told she said, ‘she can share my room mum, when she is older, I can be her ears at night’.

Freya With Sister

When Freya was five months old she had specialist genetic testing to find the cause of her hearing loss, including a heel prick to test for cytomegalovirus (CMV).

“This was the first of many tests we would wait on. This was one of the hardest parts of our journey, waiting on results,” Emily said.

They were referred to an ENT for review of Freya’s ear canals to see if Freya had any malformation or structural issues with the ear canal, who then referred them to Hear and Say in Townsville for speech therapy and audiology services.

“We met with Amy from Hear and Say before Freya was 12 months old and had an initial consult, and when Freya was almost two we met Liza and started speech therapy sessions – Freya responded the best she ever had with the Hear and Say team,” Emily said.

“It was the first time we could complete a hearing test in one sitting. Liza and Lisa changed tactics when Freya became disinterested or distracted. It was for me, one of the best experiences.

“We have also noticed the difference it has made with Freya – she is a shy and reserved little girl. Freya would only speak to her family, and simply smile at anyone else or look away.

“Since coming to Hear and Say, Freya is talking with others – she is also communicating with her peers at day care, which she wasn’t able to do for quite some time.

“It has made such a remarkable difference and we don’t believe she would be where she is today without the regular speech therapy she does with Liza. It’s one of Freya’s highlights for the week.”

Hear and Say aims to empower parents to be their child’s speech and language teacher, arming them with the knowledge and tools they need.

“Liza has not only worked with Freya, but with our entire family. She has provided us with examples of ways to continue lessons at home and given us a plan and goals to work towards.

Reflecting on their experience over the last two years, Emily and Matthew wished they could tell themselves that there would be hard days, but there would also be joy – it would be okay.

“We are so thankful we live in Australia where we are supported through the National Disability Insurance Scheme [NDIS] and Hearing Australia to improve Freya’s life.

“She is incredibly blessed and has opened our lives to the deaf or hard of hearing community. We have met so many families through our journey and we are forever grateful for our Freya and her special ears.”

Emily and Matthew are also inspired when they of Freya’s future, she will be able to hear, listen and speak like her siblings Arianna, Mateo and Emelia.

“Our hope for Freya is to rise above anything she will experience in her life and show that she is more than her hearing loss, eye impairment, anything,” Emily said.

“We will be there to support her and help her achieve whatever it is she sets her sights on.”

Charlie is always up for a challenge or a game - at just eight years old he is an all-rounder with a love for rugby, swimming, soccer, chess and stem activities.

When Charlie was six years old, he had an accident, falling out of a tree and suffering a head injury, with fractures to the bones in his middle and inner ear. This left Charlie with a profound hearing loss on his left side, a diagnosis his family were not expecting.

“I think it would be fair to say we were bewildered and shocked. We had no idea what this diagnosis meant for Charlie or how we would help him. We had no real understanding about the path we were about to travel,” said Jacqueline, Charlie’s mum.

During this challenging time, Hear and Say was front-of-mind for Jacqueline and her husband Matthew, having already been to the centre a few years prior.

“Charlie had a number of speech disorders as a young child. He had speech therapy when he was four-years-old at Hear and Say, as well as occupational therapy,” said Jacqueline. 

Going back to an organisation they knew could help felt like a good place to start their family’s journey.

“We started by educating ourselves, monitoring Charlie's progress and accessing the support and wisdom of families in a similar situation.

“During this time Hear and Say was pivotal in presenting information, answering our questions, arming us to support Charlie and advocating for him.

“Hear and Say made us brave,” said Jacqueline.

The next big step was deciding that a cochlear implant would be the best approach for Charlie.

“Since our decision to go ahead with a cochlear implant, Charlie’s journey has been smooth and progressive with the assistance from Hear and Say.

“Just months after receiving the implant, Charlie is understanding conversational language through the device and is eager to do his listening homework so he can directly stream the TV to his cochlear implant.

Img Charlie With Lama

“He used apps for his listening homework, they were based on levels and scores which really motivated him. He progressed quickly from the apps to listening to podcasts through his cochlear and then watching TV shows like Pokemon,” said Jacqueline.

Charlie's Family

On reflection, Jacqueline says the experience was better than she expected, and was impressed by how well Charlie adapted to his new situation.

“It has, at times, been emotional and daunting but in hindsight so much smoother than we originally anticipated.  

“Charlie’s love of sport has helped in his recovery and resilience, he always throws himself into any sport or challenge that he can, and now this includes his hearing journey,” said Jacqueline. 

It was important to Jacqueline and Matthew that their son be connected to the world of sound.

“We wanted to enable him to be who he was always going to be. 

“We never wanted to take anything away from Charlie. Reconnecting him with the world of bilateral sound allows him to continue to engage with friends, to confidently participate in sport and to maintain his passion for learning like he previously has.

“It gives Charlie the opportunity to be in charge of his learning and where that will take him in the future,” said Jacqueline. 

Lily has represented Queensland for gymnastics, swimming, and athletics. She is also passionate about music, song writing, travel and raising awareness for hearing loss.

“I was diagnosed with profound hearing loss when I was 11 months old. My parents suspected that something was wrong because I wasn't speaking or reacting when they’d call my name,” said Lily.

Lily

Today newborn babies in Australia have their hearing tested while in hospital, but when Lily was born this process was not yet introduced.

Lily had surgery for her first cochlear implant on her right side when she was one year old, followed by one on her left side at eight.

Lily’s hearing devices have made a huge difference to her life and who she is.

“Without my cochlear implants I wouldn’t be able to experience the true feeling sound brings to me. Being able to hear my loved ones talk to me, listening to my favourite artists or TV shows and so much more. Hearing allows me personally to connect with the world.

“I use the Bluetooth feature on my cochlear implants to stream music almost every second of each day. I find comfort in music, it’s like having a coffee in the morning for me,” said Lily.

To get the best outcome from hearing technology, recipients are encouraged to do specialised speech therapy to learn how to listen through their cochlear implant or hearing device. Lily and her family came to Hear and Say for speech therapy as well as audiology services to program her implants and keep them up-to-date.

“Without Hear and Say my life wouldn't run the way it does now. I wouldn't have had the same opportunities that I’ve had, and I might never have known some of the people who are now in my life.”

While reflecting on the path her life has taken, Lily shares some insight on her schooling experience.

“I got questioned frequently when I was growing up, and this was something that I just had to accept because not everyone in the world is deaf, and not everyone knows what ‘those things on your ears’ are.

“When people asked questions or showed an interest in learning about cochlear implants it made me feel heard, which is something that every person who is deaf wants.”

Along with these questions from her peers, Lily was also grateful for the teachers she had at school.

“Every teacher that wore the FM system would always say ‘I feel like a rockstar’.

“When I just started high school, one of the first bits of homework that everyone except me got, was to research what cochlear implants were and we then talked about it in the next lesson. I’m not sure what the best part about that was, people learning something significant about me and other people who are deaf, or the fact I didn’t have to do the homework!”

Img Lily On Beam

Growing up, Lily also spent a lot of time at gymnastics, going to training almost every afternoon.

“Gymnastics was my second home and the people there were my second family.

“People would wonder what it was like being deaf and doing gymnastics, I found it hard to answer this because for me, I didn’t know anything else.

Lily Clapping

“The hairstyles were one noticeable difference though; I could only wear my hair certain ways so that my cochlear implants stayed on. Every mum with a sporting kid knows the ‘tuck the implant under the hair’ trick or the need to resort to headbands.”

Putting the vast quantities of bobby pins aside, Lily found her hearing loss to be a positive addition to her sporting career.

“I always try to look for the beauty in everything in my life and being a gymnast, I was able to promote hearing loss and disabilities in an extreme sport.”

Taking this positive outlook with her, Lily is now teaching the sport she loves.

“I’ve worked as a gymnastics coach ever since I stopped participating in the sport myself and I absolutely love it. I even coached kids who were deaf which made it even more special.”

Looking ahead, Lily has big dreams for what her future might hold.

“My dream is to work in the entertainment industry. I’d love to become a manager for an artist, have my own record label in Australia and build an international company.

“Another dream of mine is to become an advocate or influencer to spread awareness and educate people about being deaf.”

As Lily shares her story, she has some quick pieces of advice for new parents who have just found out their child is deaf.

“When your child grows up a bit and you’re having an argument, those hearing devices will not be staying on! We will take advantage and choose not to hear you yelling.

“In all seriousness, please be optimistic and patient, do not ever hesitate to seek help from experts, ask as many questions as you need and be prepared to learn a lot.

“The process will be challenging and emotional but one day your child will be so grateful for what you did for them. It will all be worth it.”

Bláthnaid loves playing with her kitchen and dolls, and her “babies” are very well dressed and fed! At two-years-old, Bláthnaid has many strings to her bow, she also enjoys playing on the trampoline with her brother and has a passion for music.

“She absolutely loves music, she will sing along to songs and dance whenever she hears a beat – everything from Metallica to the music on a TV ad,” said Vicki, Bláthnaid’s mum.

Blathnaid And Her Family

When Bláthnaid was just four days old her parents were told she failed her newborn hearing screen.

“From there, we had lots of referrals to various testing appointments. When she was around eight weeks old, it was flagged that the hearing loss was more than ‘just birth fluid’ and it was looking like a sensorineural hearing loss, with one ear having a more significant loss than the other,” said Vicki.

“I think ‘shock’ sums it up in one word! But as soon as we knew some things started to make more sense. She was very hard to settle, especially in the car – of course, she couldn’t hear us talking to her, playing music, trying to calm her. Only holding her helped, which isn’t possible when you are driving the car,” she said.

“Although we knew very early about Bláthnaid’s hearing loss, and she was fitted with a hearing aid when she was four and a half months old, it wasn’t until she was six months old that we finally found out what had caused her hearing loss.

“She was born with a condition called congenital cytomegalovirus (CMV), which she had contracted in utero. Once we had that diagnosis, there was a lot more testing to make sure the virus hadn’t caused other problems, such as lesions in her brain and enlarged organs.

“As a mum, I blamed myself and started to question whether I had done something wrong. But, that doesn’t get us anywhere and it certainly doesn’t help Bláthnaid,” said Vicki.

In late 2020 Bláthnaid’s hearing loss progressed and she was diagnosed as profoundly deaf in her left ear, and the hearing in her right ear continued to fluctuate. Following a series of testing, in June 2021 she underwent surgery for a cochlear implant for her left ear. 

“The change in her speech and development has been amazing to watch. Despite having to make such a terrifying decision, it was definitely the right thing to do,” said Vicki.

During their journey the family had started to come to Hear and Say for hearing tests, weekly speech therapy and after the surgery, cochlear implant programming too.

“Hear and Say have helped us through the transition from hearing aid to cochlear implant, they supported us to develop our knowledge around the changes in technology and also the additional speech supports Bláthnaid needed,” said Vicki.

Img Blathnaid

“We want Bláthnaid to live a happy life where her speech and language is developmentally on track with her peers, so that she can attend a mainstream school with her brother. We chose to have the cochlear implant fitted and undergo so much speech therapy so that this is a reality,” she said.

“When she is older, Bláthnaid might choose not to wear her cochlear implant and embrace the Deaf community, but we wanted to give her the options so she can choose herself.”

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2020-21 Annual Report

Read about the 300 babies born with hearing loss in Australia each year, and how Hear and Say continued to change lives this year.

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Workplace giving

“The program gives our staff a sense of pride in the company and for the work they do at Sci-Fleet." – Allison Scifleet, Guest Experience Manager, Sci-Fleet Motors.

Spotlight on single-sided deafness

“This research project is very exciting because it helps to show that children who receive a cochlear implant for single-sided deafness saw significant improvements in their day-to-day hearing abilities, which are maintained over time."

Cycling and hearing loss: staying safe on the roads

“People kept mentioning to me that I was missing parts of conversations, and in crowded environments I was finding it very difficult to hear and engage with others."

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