Growing up in the regional town of Moranbah, about 190kms southwest of Mackay, eight-year-old Aria loves her two staffies and going fishing on the boat. She is very social and enjoys spending time with her friends.
“Aria goes to swimming each week and is progressing into squad training. She has joined Girl Guides and enjoys going along with her friends. Although she doesn’t do gymnastics anymore, she is constantly doing handstands, somersaults, flips on the trampoline and turning herself inside out,” said Aria’s mum, Prue.
Aria is in year two and her weeks are filled with health and physical education, the arts, technology and typical classroom subjects – all of which Aria is a high achiever in!
In 2020, Hear and Say visited Aria’s school to screen the hearing of all of the Prep students, it was then Aria was picked as having a potential hearing loss.
“We then had an appointment with the audiologist in Moranbah, who did two hearing tests on different days to check the consistency of the results. They then referred us to an ENT in Mackay as well as Hearing Australia, who diagnosed her hearing loss,” said Prue.
Aria was diagnosed with mild to moderate sensorineural hearing loss. This diagnosis shocked her parents as Aria had passed her newborn hearing screening test at birth with flying colours.
“Aria has always been ahead developmentally, excelled at school and showed no indication of hearing loss,” said Prue.
“She didn’t watch the TV loudly and has always articulated all of her sounds and words correctly so the discovery of her hearing loss came as a surprise to us, her teacher and our friends.”
For the past five years, Hear and Say has hit the road through Central Queensland, to screen the hearing of students in some of the state’s regional towns.
In partnership with the program’s founding regional partner, Thiess, these trips have enabled families to access vital early childhood hearing services from the classroom, rather than having to make a long drive from home.
“Without Hear and Say, it’s likely Aria’s hearing loss wouldn’t have been detected until later on in her schooling life. It may have impacted her grades as she would have missed important learnings in the classroom,” said Prue.
The hearing screen had picked up that Aria’s hearing wasn’t within the average range at higher pitches. This included the speech sounds ‘sh’, ‘th’ and ‘f’ used every day!
“Aria didn’t have any issues with pronouncing any of these sounds, or any sounds at all. She has always articulated words well, which added to the surprise of her hearing loss,” said Prue.
Follow-up hearing assessments led to Aria being fitted with hearing aids.
“Aria now wears her hearing aids at school and the teachers use a Roger microphone that streams directly to them. Aria can now hear instructions more clearly without the background noise of the classroom.”
“Aria would have relied on lip reading and ‘guessing’ what may have been said in class before knowing she had hearing loss,” said Prue.
The early identification of Aria’s hearing loss has helped her to reach her full potential.
“I think as parents we expect and hope that when the hearing test is passed at birth that our child has good hearing. It had never crossed our minds that we would be in a situation where Aria would be diagnosed with a hearing loss at the age of six,” said Prue.
“We had no idea that the number of children with hearing loss actually doubles by the time they go to school,” she said.
“With the early intervention, thanks to Hear and Say’s hearing screen, we’ve been able to ensure Aria is learning at the level she is capable of and without being left behind.”