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.
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.
“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.”