Despite the gruelling schedule of Year 12, working at a local pharmacy and keeping up with her favourite sports of hockey and tennis, when 17-year-old Saskia was asked if she’d consider being a mentor for younger children with hearing loss, she had no hesitation in saying yes.

“My recent involvement in Hear and Say’s COMET program, which teaches kids communication and problem-solving skills through fun activities, was the best three days I had on my holiday break,” said Saskia.

“Being able to meet so many children with hearing loss and listen to them share experiences was amazing, and the fact that I could relate so much to them when I was their age told me how important it is for all of us to help each other.”

Young Adult Sitting At Table

Born just before the newborn hearing screening program was rolled out in hospitals, Saskia’s parents discovered her hearing loss when she was 18 months old. Saskia was quickly fitted with hearing aids, and due to the severity of her hearing loss went on to have a cochlear implant on her right side at three years old. She then received her second implant when she was 11.

“Hear and Say was like my second home growing up,” Saskia recalled.

“Their team have helped me to become the person I am today, not only in auditory-verbal [specialist speech therapy] lessons and audiology, but through their Group Social Skills programs and their ability to answer any question I or my family have had. Hear and Say feels like a second family, where I always know I can go and ask for help or guidance.”

Saskia said participating in the Group Social Skills programs over the years herself were some of her “most memorable experiences at Hear and Say”.

“From a very young age I always went to Hear and Say’s playgroup, and then later to ROCKET, COMET, STAR and Hear to Live, where I got to meet lots of kids my age with hearing loss – even today I am still really close with some of them.

“Life with a hearing loss is not always smooth sailing, and we all have our bumps along the road. Coming back to the COMET program as a mentor meant I was able to share my past experiences about how I managed issues, or what I could have done better. The kids got to learn ways on how best to approach situations that might also come about in their life, especially at school, and allowed them to feel more comfortable in themselves.

“Volunteering at COMET also confirmed for me that I want to become a paediatric occupational therapist when I graduate from school, and use my own experiences to help kids with disability to live a happier life.”

Saskia said she was proud to give back to a community that had supported her so much.

“Being able to hear, listen and speak has honestly changed my life forever, and most definitely for the better! I have been able to go to the same school as my older sister, actively play a role within my cohort, and do things like listen to music, watch movies with my family and participate in sport.

“An overall message I would give to anyone with a hearing loss is not to let your hearing loss bring you down. Don’t let anyone have lower expectations of you, and surround yourself with the people who care and respect you for who you are.”

Find out more about Group Social Skills programs

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Tina Worland knows firsthand the impact of Hear and Say’s work, having had two children born deaf who have gone on to hear, speak and achieve their goals. Tina shares her family’s story below, and her passionate ongoing support of the cause through the annual Ladies Long Lunch.

My first child was born 23 years ago and had all the bits and bobs he was supposed to – ten fingers, ten toes, hit all the developmental milestones – until he was about four months old.

I used to pride myself in my ability to vacuum loudly and not wake him, how I could make a cacophony of sound from the kitchen but he wouldn’t stir. Perfect, too perfect.

But then it progressed. My voice wouldn’t soothe him, or he would fret thinking I wasn’t in the room. He was eventually diagnosed with profound hearing loss at eight and a half months old, and our world was turned upside down.

Img Tina And Her Family

‘Deafness’ was a word I hadn’t given much thought towards, something I had just assumed could be fixed with sign language and had little impact on how a person lived their life. But now that someone of my own flesh and blood was diagnosed with this impairment, I began to fully appreciate the difficulties and nuances of raising a child who is deaf. I thought about how different my life would have been had my education, social life and career been inhibited by restricted communication, about how far I’d come and whether it would have been possible without the ability to hear.

I wanted my child to have the choice, the opportunity to learn different languages, to hear music and the voices of his own future loved ones someday.

We found Hear and Say at the recommendation of our early intervention provider, who offered us hope that our baby would become part of the same hearing world we lived in; that my child would grow up enjoying the same songs (or not) that I loved, be able to hear my voice.

It soon transpired that he would require surgery to have a cochlear implant, after which, we were able to spend the time teaching our son how to listen and speak – something that, for a time, I had thought we would never have the opportunity to do.

Skipping ahead a few years, and as our son’s speech was beginning to develop, we decided to complete our family with another baby, knowing there was a chance that our second child would also be born with profound deafness. But we had experienced the marvels of modern medicine, and the support from Hear and Say, and felt no determent.

Our daughter was born four and a half years later, profoundly deaf, her cochlear implant now matching her brother’s. My children can both speak and hear perfectly, have attended mainstream schools, completed their education and are now functional young adults.

For their help and support during a worrying time, and for aiding my children to be able to hear, Hear and Say is my pet charity to which I owe so much. My husband and I feel passionately about what they have given to us, and we wish to give back to them.

Each year myself and two other mums host the Ladies Long Lunch, in aid of Hear and Say to shine a light on the work the wonderful team do for Queensland children who are born deaf: a gift that keeps on giving from infancy onwards, allowing for these children to take their place in the hearing world.

Thanks to Hear and Say, 23 years later, my dream of sharing a love of music with my son has come true: he can call me, overwhelmed, to tell me about how cochlear implants and their modern Bluetooth capabilities allowed him to hear Dire Straits more clearly than he ever had before.

An extended version of this article was originally published here.

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With a love of the outdoors and the beach, one-year-old Lola would be hard pressed to find a better place to grow up than Gympie, a stone’s throw away from the beautiful Sunshine Coast.

Equally, her parents Lee and Josh enjoy watching their young daughter playing, knowing that she can hear everything going on around her.

Diagnosed with severe hearing loss in her right ear at birth, Lola now wears a hearing aid and has regular speech therapy through the Hear and Say Nambour centre.

“Lola’s journey so far has gone quite smoothly, as there has been a lot of support provided from the start,” said Lola’s mum, Lee.

Lola

“It was early on that we first found out about Hear and Say through Hearing Australia, when visiting the hospital in Brisbane.

“Right from the beginning, Hear and Say has been wonderful, and their team has given us the confidence to help Lola learn to hear, listen and speak. Without Hear and Say’s guidance to teach Lola strategies to develop her speaking when we’re at home or out and about, we would feel more worried about Lola’s speech and language skills.”

In addition to the specialised speech therapy and audiology services Lola currently comes to Hear and Say for, Lee said the family was also excited to join the LEAP Group Social Skills program to participate in educational, play-based activities and build friendships with other local families.

“Lola is very social and loves to be out and about interacting with people,” said Lee.

“I’m sure there will be some hurdles as she grows, but Hear and Say has given us the reassurance that they will be there helping Lola to reach her milestones and that there will be plenty of support along the way.”

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It’s the classic science experiment that’s been thrilling students for decades: turning everyday pantry staples into an erupting volcano.

For Townsville’s six-year-old Thomas, the fizz and crackle of the mock explosion was heard loud and clear, thanks to the hearing aids he wears.

“The results of Thomas’ hearing tests in the hospital when he was born came back as a big shock, as we have no family history of hearing loss,” recalled Thomas’ mum, Samantha.

“Although I work in the health field as a physiotherapist, we still found it a daunting process looking at a long list of providers to choose from. I had a friend whose son has a hearing loss and remembered her mentioning Hear and Say, so thought that was a good place to start. We haven’t looked back since.”

Img Thomas And Pipper Hugging

When their daughter, Pippa was born two years later, Samantha and her husband, Martin knew there was a chance she would also have a hearing loss – and so were prepared when they were again told the news that their baby would also require similar support to her brother.

Years on, and the energetic siblings are growing up to reach whatever goals they set their minds to thanks to their dedicated family, hearing technology and specialist speech therapy support at Hear and Say’s Townsville centre.

In addition to his interest in explosive science experiments, Thomas loves getting out and being active – whether that’s swimming, riding his bike, or playing cricket and soccer. Both Thomas and Pippa also take after their dad, Martin and his love of music, and are learning to play the piano and cornet.

“I remember when Thomas was born we were unsure about what his hearing loss would mean for his ability to listen to and play music, as that’s a big part of our family life. However, we’re so grateful that technology allows Thomas and Pippa to experience and learn about music, just the same as their friends without hearing loss,” said Samantha.

“Pippa in particular loves to perform and put on a show, from dancing and singing to playing music and telling stories.”

Samantha said Hear and Say had played a significant role in building their children’s confidence – as well as her and Martin’s as parents.

Img Pipper With Butterfly Face Paint
Img Thomas And Pipper Together

“Hear and Say has been amazing with Thomas and Pippa and in many ways, their team feels like a part of the family. From being there to celebrate all the little wins and gains, to preparing and supporting them starting school – speech therapy at Hear and Say is a fun, relaxed experience with strong parent involvement. I’ve found this very helpful for replicating and practicing speech skills at home,” said Samantha.

“I don’t think it should ever be underestimated the impact of hearing ‘You’re doing a great job as a parent’. Hear and Say regularly recognises the hard work and persistence we have put in to help Thomas and Pippa achieve their goals, and it affirms that we made the right decision in choosing Hear and Say.”

For more information about how Hear and Say can support your family, please contact us.

For Rockhampton parents Renee and Jacob, finding out their baby girl had been born with hearing loss six years ago came as a complete shock.

“Evie’s diagnosis came after her newborn screen at the hospital, and it was a huge surprise as no one in our families had ever had hearing loss,” said Renee.

“We didn’t know what we were meant to do, and it was pretty scary particularly as we were first-time parents.”

Evie

Evie was just nine weeks old when she was fitted with her first pair of hearing aids – “hot pink”, as Renee fondly recalled. Determined to help their daughter learn to hear and speak, the family turned to renowned Queensland organisation, Hear and Say and haven’t turned back.

“Because we live regionally, we received weekly specialised speech therapy via telepractice from Hear and Say until Evie was around four years of age, which then went to fortnightly sessions,” said Renee.

“It’s support we absolutely couldn’t do without. We had no idea what to do for a child with hearing loss, and Hear and Say has guided us every step of the way. Evie’s speech therapists have been professional, kind and they care about her holistic development. She is keeping up with her peers in terms of listening and speaking, and Hear and Say has shown us that children born deaf are able to access sound and live a full and happy life – the work they do is unmatchable.”

QCoal Foundation and Hear and Say have joined forces in an exciting new partnership to support regional and remote students like Evie to thrive.

Under the service known as the Hear and Say RETAIN (REgional TArgeted INtervention) program, the two organisations are working together to help ensure that school-age children with hearing loss aren’t left behind and can go on to reach their goals – regardless of where they live.

Contact us to find out how we can support school-age students

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With a career spanning five decades working with children who are deaf or hard of hearing, Jackie Brown’s personal hearing loss journey later in life still came with its own set of adjustments.

“I’d had a hearing test about 20 years ago, and noticed my hearing of high frequency pitches – such as the ‘s’ or ‘f’ sounds when someone was speaking – was gradually starting to taper off,” recalled Jackie.

For about 15 years the grandmother-of-seven happily wore hearing aids, until she started to notice these were no longer giving her enough clarity across all the sounds of speech.

“High frequency sounds really affect what you can understand, and I was struggling, particularly in noisier environments such as work meetings or when out for lunch with friends. My grandchildren were also coming along, and I found it very confronting that I was having trouble hearing their little voices,” said Jackie.

“I often think about Helen Keller who was deaf and blind, and she said that blindness cuts you off from things, and deafness cuts you off from people. That’s what I was beginning to experience.

 “I would wonder, ‘Do I really want to go out with these friends? How many of them are going? How will I cope?’ Telephone conversations, particularly those which weren’t with someone I knew or where I didn’t know the agenda, were hard. It was becoming quite stressful when someone would call and I would struggle to understand both who they were and what they were talking about.”

Having worked at Hear and Say for almost 15 years, Jackie turned to her audiologist workmates to discuss the option of a cochlear implant.

After a comprehensive series of assessments to determine her eligibility for the cochlear implant technology, Jackie underwent surgery in 2018 – with “both eyes open” to what was involved, but excited by the possibilities ahead for clearer hearing.

“I was aware a cochlear implant wasn’t going to be a quick miracle fix, and that I wouldn’t walk out of the ‘switch on’ day and immediately be able to understand everything that was said to me,” said Jackie.

“However, my experience working with people with hearing loss for so many years meant I knew that, with great support, I could re-teach my brain to interpret what I was hearing through the cochlear implant so that it sounds like normal speech. It is truly a marvel for me now when I have the grandchildren in the backseat of the car, and I can easily pick up their little voices.”

Jackie sung the praises of attending specialised speech therapy appointments known as auditory learning, touting the regular support as a “necessary part of getting any hearing device fitted”.

“I found it absolutely essential to have that early specialised support, to get used to hearing through my cochlear implant and relearn to understand those sounds that I hadn’t heard clearly for several years. Even as a professional myself, it was so helpful being walked through the different steps, and gave me the encouragement to keep persevering,” said Jackie.

Img Lady In Conversation

“Having a hearing loss can be quite confronting, and even though I have worked with children with hearing loss all my life, and I knew what help was available, I still found it confronting. However, I would still tell anyone that proactively looking after your hearing health is well worth it.

“A hearing loss can isolate you, and those day-to-day interactions with friends and family are so important – especially as you get older.”

Learn more about how Hear and Say can support your own hearing loss journey by contacting us today.

Hearing loss can be preventable and treatable.

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From digital imagery of a baby’s brain “hearing” for the first time; to photos of Hear and Say children across the ages; to glittery craft creations of all shapes and sizes – the walls of our centres are a treasure trove of masterpieces.

One particularly striking series of artworks on display at Hear and Say in Brisbane was painted in 2014 by 24-year-old Sarah Norton, a past graduate of Hear and Say’s Early Intervention program.

Titled Outside SilenceLife of Cochlea and Sound’s Journey, Sarah said the triptych reflected different stages of her journey using two cochlear implants to hear. Read on for Sarah’s explanation of each work:

Sarah's Paintings

Left: Outside Silence

“A vivid movement of sounds that are silent. This painting is what the world looks like to me with no sounds, just lots of movements in an everyday world. I always explain that it’s like when people who are blind hear things, it’s colourful to their eyes. When people who are deaf see things, it’s colourful to our ears. This painting gives an understanding of how time without sound enables me to enjoy the views and silence.”

Middle: Life of Cochlea

“A cochlea transforming the silence of sounds into a colourful visualisation. This painting is a representation of sounds becoming a colourful world. It transforms from silent sounds to colourful sounds.”

Right: Sound’s Journey

“A soundwave on the final journey to reveal the magic of the sounds. This painting really speaks to my inner self, reflecting that we all are not perfect but we can take every special moment to listen and hear the beauty of the sounds, which brings life to my family and friends. I’m always excited to hear music or laughter that brings joy.”

In addition to her creative pursuits, Sarah is currently studying Civil Engineering (Honours) at the Queensland University of Technology and working part-time for global mining services provider, Thiess. She continues to visit Hear and Say for audiology support with her cochlear implants.

Living over 800 kilometres from her hometown of Brisbane, a visit to Hear and Say brings a lot of nostalgia for mum of two, Maddi.

“I was two when I got my first cochlear implant – and back then I was the youngest child in Queensland to receive one,” recalled Maddi.

“It had a great big processor, with massive cords hanging out on one side. I remember one day at school when we were using scissors for an activity, and I accidentally cut the cord! I was in about Grade Five when I got fitted with little brown processors that were cordless – I was ecstatic!”

 

Maddi As A Child

Maddi went on to get a second cochlear implant on her left side at 19 years old. Although the journey using the new device wasn’t as smooth sailing as her right side, Maddi said she had developed a lot of resilience having moved by herself from the city to Central Queensland.

“After leaving school, my parents encouraged me to try something on my own and leave Brisbane. I took a leap and moved out to Central Queensland, which really got me out of my comfort zone. It taught me not to be afraid to take on change and really helped me gain my confidence,” said Maddi.

Now with two young daughters, Maddi said becoming a mother had provided even greater motivation to keep up with the ongoing work needed to ensure her hearing and speech remained at their full potential.

“I’m most grateful for being able to hear my babies laugh – that’s just the most amazing sound, getting to hear them giggle and talk. A world of hearing and sound means I get to live an everyday life, and be able to talk with my husband, family and friends,” said Maddi.

“Ever since I became a mum, I feel quite empowered to not be afraid to let my deafness stop me. I’m part of a diversity and inclusion group at work, and I’m proud to be showing people that my deafness isn’t a limit for me. It’s something I really want to do for my girls, too.”

For people like Maddi living in regional Queensland who use cochlear implants to hear, access to specialist audiology services can still present significant logistical challenges. Particularly with her increasing family commitments, Maddi said it was difficult regularly making the nine-hour drive from Emerald to Brisbane for appointments.

However, thanks to generous funding from RACQ Foundation, Hear and Say now has specialist audiology equipment which enables the remote programming of cochlear implants, a service required by implant users every six months for life.

Maddi was thrilled to be one of the first people at Hear and Say to trial the innovative equipment, connected to an audiologist in Brisbane right from her lounge room.

Maddi With Her Daughter

Reflecting back, Maddi said she couldn’t imagine not having the constant presence of Hear and Say and the support it had offered to her family.

“I really wouldn’t know life without Hear and Say. They’ve always been there for me, growing up and even being a young adult now with a family of my own. I love the remote audiology services that Hear and Say now has available for people like me living outside of the cities.”

Information technology specialist, Bruce Eagle is one of the two-thirds of Australians who suffer from tinnitus at some point in their life.

Frustrated with the constant ringing noise in his ears and a mild but increasingly noticeable hearing loss, Bruce, aged 63, turned to Hear and Say for a hearing test.

Now fitted with hearing aids specifically matched to his type of hearing loss and day-to-day needs, Bruce said he had already noticed a difference in the few months since wearing them.

“Beforehand people seemed to be mumbling in conversations, but now I better understand what they’re saying in both quiet and noisy environments, and my tinnitus isn’t worsening,” said Bruce.

“Going through Hear and Say meant that I could be assured that they were independent and not aligned with any particular manufacturers, meaning my hearing aids really are best meeting my needs. They are also so small that they’re hardly noticeable when I’m wearing them.”

Bruce, with a self-confessed enthusiasm for all things technology and computing, noted that he also loved the Bluetooth capabilities – enabling him to stream phone calls and even the radio straight from his smartphone.

Having now been through the experience of getting hearing aids himself, Bruce encouraged others to take that first step with a hearing test no matter how hesitant they may feel.

“It’s actually been a pleasure to work with Hear and Say and overall a lovely experience that I’d happily recommend to others,” said Bruce.

“My advice to others is to stop procrastinating, go get your hearing checked and then consider your options – and do it through Hear and Say!”

Year Six student Benjamin is fascinated by all things mechanical and electronic – meaning his high-tech hearing device is a great fit in more ways than one.

Diagnosed with profound hearing loss in his right ear, Benjamin now uses a cochlear implant to hear clearly all the time, both at home and in the classroom.

“Benjamin’s hearing loss was gradual from four years old. Coupled with his prior diagnosis of autism, it had created significant obstacles to his learning and engagement at school,” said Benjamin’s mum, Julia.

After being referred to Hear and Say, Benjamin went through a comprehensive assessment process for a cochlear implant – ultimately resulting in him undergoing the surgery in 2018.

Benjamin

Since then, Benjamin’s family has continued to attend the Gold Coast Centre, for audiology support and specialised speech therapy known as listening and spoken language therapy.

For Benjamin, it means getting on with a fun-filled childhood encompassing his loves of bike-riding, climbing, reading and lots of “tinkering”.

“Hear and Say provides immeasurable support to families like ours, and their compassion, understanding and expertise brings stability during what are often difficult and life-changing circumstances,” said Julia.

“Benjamin’s allied health specialists at Hear and Say are extraordinary and have a wonderful rapport with him, and have given us invaluable support and encouragement.

“They not only provide us with professional assistance but a level of understanding, kindness and humanity that is humbling.”

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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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