Five-year-old Prep student Sam from Bushland Beach, just north of Townsville, was born with mild to moderate mixed hearing loss however hasn’t let it hold him back.
He keeps himself entertained, like any five year old, playing hide and seek and soccer. He enjoys going to the playground or beach with his brother Miles as well as dancing to the Shrek soundtrack, going to the local library and museum.
“Sam was diagnosed with a hearing loss during his newborn screening test. The nurse thought there was an error and ran it a second time with the same result,” said Karen, Sam’s mum.
“She didn’t save the initial test, and came back the next day to run it again to see if new equipment gave a different reading,” she said.
“When the results were the same, she advised that Sam would need further testing and talked us through the referral process and what would happen next.
Sam’s parents hadn’t given any thought to Sam potentially being born with hearing loss as they didn’t have any family members with hearing issues.
“Sam’s hearing journey has been a bag of mixed responses. While in Brisbane, we kept receiving a mild hearing loss diagnosis and were told he should be fine, it’s only mild. Come back for more tests in one year and we’ll check any improvements or declines,” said Karen.
“Over three years, Sam had roughly five hearing tests, most unable to be completed as he’d get restless, yet the results were the same – mild hearing loss, come back next year. We were told Hearing Australia wouldn’t do anything until he was school age,” she said.
The family were then referred to the Childhood Health Hearing Clinic in Brisbane however with a sudden work transfer to Townsville plans changed quickly, which is when they were referred to local Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) Specialist Dr Shane Anderson for a follow up.
“It was Dr Anderson who referred Sam to Hear and Say as he told me he loved their individual response to children and were great at what they did,” said Karen.
“Due to COVID-19 restrictions, our start with Hear and Say was delayed and we finally found a window of good health for Sam, and met with Liza, Audiologist and Listening and Spoken Language Therapist, a couple of times to complete the testing and assessment,” she said.
In late 2022 Sam was fitted with a hearing aid, and started Prep in 2023 at his local school, and continues to see Hear and Say each fortnight for regular specialised speech therapy.
“Sam has had hearing tests, speech and language assessment and now ongoing speech and language therapy through Hear and Say,” said Karen.
“Liza has been fantastic at being Sam’s champion when it comes to hearing loss. She has advocated for him to get a hearing aid as well as visited his school and met his teacher to talk her through using the remote microphone system technology,” she said.
“It was when we went to Hear and Say that I felt Sam’s hearing loss was deemed ‘real’. Liza acknowledged a hearing loss is a hearing loss, and even mild hearing losses can have consequences on speech and language, education and developmental milestones should be addressed and supported.
“It was such a relief we had finally found someone who supported our views, and actively set out to help Sam with his hearing loss.
“It opened our life to a whole new world of deaf and hard of hearing families. Educating myself at the start of this journey was key, so I armed myself with all the knowledge I could get to be able to support Sam.”