Tina Worland knows firsthand the impact of Hear and Say’s work, having had two children born deaf who have gone on to hear, speak and achieve their goals. Tina shares her family’s story below, and her passionate ongoing support of the cause through the annual Ladies Long Lunch.
My first child was born 23 years ago and had all the bits and bobs he was supposed to – ten fingers, ten toes, hit all the developmental milestones – until he was about four months old.
I used to pride myself in my ability to vacuum loudly and not wake him, how I could make a cacophony of sound from the kitchen but he wouldn’t stir. Perfect, too perfect.
But then it progressed. My voice wouldn’t soothe him, or he would fret thinking I wasn’t in the room. He was eventually diagnosed with profound hearing loss at eight and a half months old, and our world was turned upside down.
‘Deafness’ was a word I hadn’t given much thought towards, something I had just assumed could be fixed with sign language and had little impact on how a person lived their life. But now that someone of my own flesh and blood was diagnosed with this impairment, I began to fully appreciate the difficulties and nuances of raising a child who is deaf. I thought about how different my life would have been had my education, social life and career been inhibited by restricted communication, about how far I’d come and whether it would have been possible without the ability to hear.
I wanted my child to have the choice, the opportunity to learn different languages, to hear music and the voices of his own future loved ones someday.
We found Hear and Say at the recommendation of our early intervention provider, who offered us hope that our baby would become part of the same hearing world we lived in; that my child would grow up enjoying the same songs (or not) that I loved, be able to hear my voice.
It soon transpired that he would require surgery to have a cochlear implant, after which, we were able to spend the time teaching our son how to listen and speak – something that, for a time, I had thought we would never have the opportunity to do.
Skipping ahead a few years, and as our son’s speech was beginning to develop, we decided to complete our family with another baby, knowing there was a chance that our second child would also be born with profound deafness. But we had experienced the marvels of modern medicine, and the support from Hear and Say, and felt no determent.
Our daughter was born four and a half years later, profoundly deaf, her cochlear implant now matching her brother’s. My children can both speak and hear perfectly, have attended mainstream schools, completed their education and are now functional young adults.
For their help and support during a worrying time, and for aiding my children to be able to hear, Hear and Say is my pet charity to which I owe so much. My husband and I feel passionately about what they have given to us, and we wish to give back to them.
Each year myself and two other mums host the Ladies Long Lunch, in aid of Hear and Say to shine a light on the work the wonderful team do for Queensland children who are born deaf: a gift that keeps on giving from infancy onwards, allowing for these children to take their place in the hearing world.
Thanks to Hear and Say, 23 years later, my dream of sharing a love of music with my son has come true: he can call me, overwhelmed, to tell me about how cochlear implants and their modern Bluetooth capabilities allowed him to hear Dire Straits more clearly than he ever had before.
An extended version of this article was originally published here.