The Rivett family is calling on the coastal town of Yeppoon to turn up the volume and don their brightest again for Loud Shirt Day.
Inspired by their five-year-old daughter Charlotte, Catherine and Tim Rivett are seasoned Loud Shirt legends having rallied the Yeppoon community to win the Loudest Town title in 2021 and raise more than $30,000 last year.
“Our five-year-old daughter Charlotte is the biggest inspiration in life, seeing all the challenges she has had to overcome, and Hear and Say has played a vital part in helping Charlotte live her life to the fullest,” said Catherine.
“The first inkling we had that Charlotte had hearing difficulties was during the newborn screening in hospital. She passed on her right side but failed on her left. The nurses tried to assure us that this was common, and the result could have been due to a build-up of fluid which, if it was, would resolve,” she said.
“When Charlotte was born, she spent five days in special care as it was discovered she was having difficulty breathing through her nose which required further testing.
“Charlotte and I were flown down to Brisbane and testing showed a blocked right nasal passage and a narrow left nasal passage (explaining her occasional difficulty breathing) but also showed an absent left auditory nerve meaning Charlotte would never hear on her left side.
“Charlotte underwent several surgeries to help rectify her breathing problems. Her ENT was incredible, he guided and supported us through the diagnosis that Charlotte wouldn’t hear from her left side and gave us assurance that she would do well in life with single-sided hearing, wearing her hearing aid.”
Catherine and Tim believed that hearing aids or cochlear implants could assist hearing loss, and whilst that is often the case, it wasn’t the case for Charlotte’s left side. At two months old, Charlotte was fitted with a hearing aid and the family started their journey with Hear and Say.
“We must have looked like deer-in-headlights during our first appointment, but the team at Hear and Say couldn’t have helped more. With their history of helping babies and children with hearing loss, they were well versed at helping the whole family as a unit,” said Catherine.
“We started with telehealth appointments, meaning we could have the services remotely from where we live in Yeppoon. The initial listening and spoken language lessons educated us as parents about how we could improve Charlotte’s access to sound and ensure she progressed and developed at the same rate as her peers,” she said.
“As a first-time mother, I was so appreciative of the weekly, and then fortnightly lessons, as our wonderful speech pathologist, Elizabeth, was able to guide me on age-appropriate books and activities. The lessons were a silver lining to what otherwise was a tough diagnosis.”
Charlotte was progressing well, talking and meeting milestones however at two years old she unexpectedly lost the hearing in the right ear.
“Charlotte became profoundly deaf overnight and she wasn’t at an age where we could explain what had happened,” said Catherine.
“It was devastating to our family and traumatic for Charlotte who had no understanding as to what was happening and lost her ability to communicate,” she said.
“Having had a child who was speaking and listening so well, to all of a sudden having no access to sound, really highlighted to us all how important to a child’s development communication really is.”
Four months after Charlotte losing her hearing, and with extensive counselling and expectation meetings, Tim and Catherine decided to go ahead with a cochlear implant on Charlotte’s right side.
“After a nervous wait, Charlotte was switched on in July 2021, eight days post-surgery,” said Catherine.
“Hear and Say guided us through the entire process, and even allowed our family and friends to live stream the switch-on as they couldn’t be there at the time due to COVID-19 restrictions,” she said.
“Since then, we’ve had regular audiology programming and listening and spoken language lessons, both in-centre and via telehealth. Charlotte gained access to vital sound quickly.
“Much of Charlotte’s success is due to her sheer determination, happy nature, and desire to communicate with those around her.
“We can’t stress enough how much is also due the wonderful team at Hear and Say who ensured Charlotte’s early access to speech and continued her momentum post-switch on.”
As the Yeppoon community ramps up for their third Loud Shirt Day, we asked Catherine for her top fundraising tips for anyone participating:
1. Make it personal – “Personalise your fundraising. Show how the funds raised will be used and get the donor involved in the journey – everyone loves a feel-good story!”
2. Have fun! – “In 2022, we held a breakfast sausage sizzle which was a wonderful community event. We even had a drive-through option for busy people on their way to work and school”.
3. Spread the word far and wide – “Last year, we used social media to great effect in promoting our sausage sizzle event. We also had event signage, email signatures, and did an interview with ABC breakfast radio which was fantastic, and the radio host even donated to our fundraising efforts.”
“To anyone thinking of getting involved this year, I would say – just do it! Every dollar you raise is a dollar that goes to an incredible cause, and even more importantly, is raising awareness for deaf and hard of hearing children.
“Hear and Say has been instrumental in helping Charlotte reach her full potential to hear, listen, and speak, and we want to do all we can to ensure Hear and Say can continue their amazing work and help Queensland families with deaf and hard of hearing children.”