Good hearing is crucial to our social needs. It connects us to the people around us and provides a platform for communication that none of the other senses can. It’s something that we take for granted and it is only when our hearing goes away that we learn just how isolating hearing loss can be.
A Perth mum recently witnessed how hearing loss can affect all generations when, over a short period of time, she discovered that both her father and her young daughter were having difficulty hearing.
“Wren was about seven months old when I noticed that she had suddenly gone silent,” she explains. “From being a bubbly, noisy little baby, she stopped making any sounds. I was very concerned and, after doing some Googling, I decided to send her in for hearing tests.”
The results came back showing that Wren had otitis media (OM), a common middle ear condition that occurs when fluid forms behind the eardrum. Also known as glue ear, OM occurs in up to 80 percent of children and can be responsible for a temporary hearing loss. In Wren’s case, the loss of hearing caused her to shut down her own ‘talking’.
Although many middle ear infections go away without medication, some children require an intervention by an Ear Nose and Throat specialist, who may recommend antibiotics or surgery to place grommets into the middle ear and relieve the pressure.
Following a visit to an ENT, Wren made a full recovery but, as is often the case, the short-term hearing loss had resulted in her experiencing a language delay. Her mom enrolled her in Telethon Speech & Hearing’s (TSH) Talkabout programme, which combines specialised education and health services to develop speech and language skills. Within months, Wren was reaching her age-appropriate language milestones.
Not long after little Wren completed her program at TSH’s facility in Wembley, her grandfather Joseph, some 1,400 kilometres away in Onslow, was receiving his first set of hearing aids. The 80-year-old’s hearing had been steadily declining, to the point where it had been impacting on his quality of life.
Living in the remote town of Onslow, in the Pilbara, Joseph was already isolated in the physical sense, but not being able to hear had limited his social connections too. He no longer enjoyed conversations with his neighbours or telephone calls with his daughter. Even regular tasks, such as going to the shops, had started to present challenges.
Losing one’s hearing can be a lonely experience, but Joseph’s hearing aids, courtesy of Hearing Australia, have changed all that – and the first thing he did was call his daughter so that he could talk to her and Wren.
“I didn’t realise how bad my hearing had become,” Joseph admitted. “As soon as the hearing aids had been fitted I started hearing sounds that I hadn’t heard in a long while, such as the bird life. What a pleasure it was to be able to go outside and hear my feathered friends singing again!
While all has ended well for Joseph and Wren, who are now enjoying the benefits of full hearing, their stories serve as a reminder that hearing loss occurs across all generations. If you suspect that a member of your family is experiencing a loss of hearing, please arrange for a hearing assessment with an audiologist.
Telethon Speech & Hearing offers diagnostic hearing testing services for young children, including behavioural testing from 7 months of age. As a specialist paediatric clinic, our audiologists have extensive experience testing children and can assist where other clinics maybe limited. No referral is needed. Contact Telethon Speech & Hearing on 08 9387 9888.