“Your child has hearing loss.”
It’s impossible to comprehend just how devastating these words would be for a parent. But it is a reality faced by many on a daily basis – a diagnosis that brings a wave of uncertainty and fear to more families than you probably realise.
Right now, up to two babies in every 1,000 in Australia are born with hearing loss, and it’s a rate that doubles by the time kids reach school age. However, for children born deaf today, access to early intervention services means that language, speech and listening is a genuine reality.
Many people who have been told that their child has a hearing loss describe just how ironically deafening it is to receive that news and how it shifts their lives in an instant.
For any parent, we only want what is best for our child and a large part of that is to have confidence and feel as though we are equipped with the knowledge and power to give them everything they need to excel in life. That knowledge and power comes into question when we are faced with things we did not see coming or things we do not fully understand. And that is why Queensland charity Hear and Say is so vitally important to families across Australia grappling with the diagnosis of hearing loss.
Celebrating its 27th birthday in 2019, Hear and Say is a world-leading paediatric and auditory-verbal and cochlear implant centre that began in the backroom of a Brisbane physiotherapy clinic. With more than 60 staff across five centres around Queensland and a Telepractice Program that reaches children and families in rural, remote and international locations, Hear and Say has gone on to now support more than 900 children with hearing loss to get the best start in life, by teaching them to hear, listen and speak.
It’s a phenomenal number when you think about it – around 900 children have been supported and guided on their new journey with hearing loss, removing their families' initial fear and giving them the confidence and strength moving forward to develop strong communication skills that so many of us take for granted. Even more phenomenal is that in the past six years, more than 95 per cent of Hear and Say’s graduates have gone on to their local mainstream schools.
In 2017, Hear and Say received a cash grant through the Brisbane Airport Community Giving Fund and was able to purchase assessment materials critical for its specialised Listening and Spoken Language program.
These tools are essential for tracking the progress of children with hearing loss as they learn to listen and speak, ensuring they are achieving the same outcomes as children with typical hearing. It is a program that supports around 300 children annually, including six-year-old Samuel who lives with his family in Brisbane.
Samuel’s hearing loss was identified when he was almost four-and-a-half years old. His parents became concerned about his ongoing middle ear issues and delayed speech development. Samuel was diagnosed with a severe to moderate hearing loss, and was fitted with hearing aids shortly afterwards. Samuel and his family are now supported by Hear and Say’s Early Intervention program.
Samuel’s speech and language assessment in mid-2017 showed severe delays in his speech and language skills, prompting further analysis via the assessment tools purchased with the support of the Brisbane Airport Community Giving Fund.
Since then, Samuel’s speech and language skills have improved remarkably, with his receptive (that is, understanding words and language) and expressive vocabulary (using and putting together words) now sitting within the average range for his age when assessed again in late 2018. Samuel also reached his expected reading level at the end of Prep, and is currently enjoying Year One at his local school.
The Brisbane Airport Community Giving Fund is proud to have worked alongside Hear and Say to open worlds for Brisbane families, and support children to hear, speak and live life to their potential – unlimited by their hearing loss.