Almost 400 kilometres from Rockhampton is the community of Moranbah, home to six-year-old Aria and her family.
It was through a visit from the Hear to Learn program at Aria’s school that her hearing loss was first picked up – a shock to her parents, having watched their daughter pass her hospital-based hearing screen at birth with flying colours.
For the past four years, Hear and Say has hit the road through Central Queensland, taking the Hear to Learn – School Hearing Screening program into some of the state’s smallest towns.
In partnership with the program’s founding regional partner, Thiess, these trips have enabled families to access vital early childhood hearing services right from the classroom, rather than having to make a trip that’s often many hours’ drive from home.
“Aria has always been ahead developmentally, had an exceptionally good year at school and showed no indication at home of hearing loss,” said mum, Prue.
“She didn’t watch the TV loudly and has always articulated all her sounds and words correctly – so the discovery of her hearing loss came as a surprise to us, her teacher and our friends.”
The 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’. Follow-up assessments ultimately led to Aria being fitted with hearing aids earlier this year.
For Aria, hearing better with the help of her new hearing aids – right in time to begin Year One – is already reaping rewards, particularly in noisy environments like the classroom or in shopping centres where hearing what’s going on has become easier.
“I think as parents we expect and hope that when a hearing test is passed 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.
“Hear to Learn is such a wonderful program and without it we wouldn’t have known Aria had a hearing loss until a lot later in her school life. If this was the case, her learning could have been impacted before we realised something could have been going on.”