Early Childhood Intervention | Telethon Speech & Hearing

Early intervention leads to positive outcomes

Paula Kalinowski hadn’t even left the hospital when the news came through. Her infant son, Kuba, had failed his newborn hearing test. Worse news was to follow when further tests revealed that the profound hearing loss in both ears was permanent.

“We just cried and cried,” recalls Paula. “There is no family history of hearing loss at birth and it was so unexpected. We didn’t know what to do.”

With plenty of advice but no clear action plan for Kuba, it was overwhelming for Paula and her partner Brendan.

“We were inundated with appointments, tests and advice and had so much support coming from different places,” she said. “There were all these great options, but no real guidance and we had no idea how to decide what was the best path for us to take as a family.”

The treatment plan

Kuba was fitted with a pair of hearing aids at five weeks old, but unfortunately it made no difference at all.

“We started Kuba in Telethon Speech & Hearing’s (TSH) Chatterbox program when he was six months old,” says Paula. “And I remember how wonderful they were when Kuba went in for his cochlear implant surgery. We had calls and texts of support.”

Chatterbox is an early intervention program that helps children with hearing loss learn to listen, speak and reach their full potential.

Kuba’s bilateral cochlear implant surgery took place at seven-and-a-half months old and a few weeks later it was time for the ‘switch on’.

“Most people expect the switch on to be this miracle moment where he would hear his mother’s voice for the first time and be delighted it by it,” explains Paula, “but the reality is that it was something so weird for him. He had never heard sounds before, so it was all very strange.”

Early intervention leads to positive outcomes

The good news is that, with plenty of hard work put in by Kuba’s family, the teams at PCH’s Children’s Hearing Implant Program (CHIP) team, Chatterbox and the School of Special Education Needs (SSENS), young Kuba (now two years old) has achieved the best possible outcomes.

“I know that the earlier the intervention the better for the child because they can catch up quicker with their speech and language,” explains Paula. “We are thrilled that Kuba has caught up to his peers. In fact, a speechie from Perth Children’s Hospital recently used Kuba as an example during a presentation on the best outcomes for early intervention.”

Paula recently rallied her friends and family to support TSH’s Loud Shirt Day and was able to raise $3,702 for the Perth-based not-for-profit organisation.

“Although it was difficult asking people for money, I decided to turn it in to it a positive experience for Kuba,” she explains. “I want people to know how to talk to him and understand some of the challenges he faces and I wanted to change the narrative from ‘poor Kuba is deaf’ to ‘how cool are his special ears’.

Paula’s advice for speaking to someone with hearing loss

“If I had any advice for people wanting to talk to Kuba – or any member of the deaf community for that matter – I’d say that they should start by making eye contact and speaking clearly, without shouting or talking too slowly. Be aware that background noise can make it hard for him to hear you and, finally, if you have any questions, don’t be afraid to ask – it’s so much better than staring.”