Babies begin to hear and recognise the rhythm and melody of voices within months of birth, often responding to cooing sounds when you talk to them…but what happens when they don’t?
That was the reality that Chichester-residents, Cristie and Arron McGowan, faced when their 15-month-old daughter Mia was still not responding to their voices.
“We have five children between us so we knew that something wasn’t right when Mia wasn’t reaching the milestones that all our other children had reached,” says Arron, a hydraulics engineer.
Mia failed the hearing test in hospital when she was born, but as she had a quick birth, Cristie and Arron were advised that it could be fluid in her ears.
“When Mia was 15 months we realised that something was wrong. She still couldn’t say any words, or respond to our calls, and sadly she still hadn’t laughed. We went to the GP and was referred to the Audiology specialist a Portsmouth Hospitals. It was then that it was revealed that Mia was severely deaf,” explains Arron.
Mia was fitted with a hearing aid in each ear, but frustratingly continued to pull them out…until the film Frozen was released that is.
“Mia absolutely loved the song ‘Let It Go’ from the film Frozen, and suddenly, she went from constantly pulling her hearing aids out, to asking us to put them in so she could hear the song.” Arron laughs.
At 16 months old, Mia started attending The Elizabeth Foundation (a national charity that supports infants and pre-school children with hearing loss).
On average 10,000 babies and young children are screened at the Paediatric Audiology Department at Portsmouth Hospitals. If they have hearing loss, then they are referred to the Elizabeth Foundation, situated next to QA Hospital.
The unique relationship between the hospital and the foundation means that the foundation staff can support parents the moment they are given the news by the Consultant Audiologist that their child has any form of hearing loss.
“By the time Mia was 20 months she was able to make animal sounds (e.g. woof woof for a dog) and use vocalisations alongside gestures (such as pointing) to communicate. It was the most we’d ever seen her do. It just made us so happy that she was already starting to show progress in her learning,” says Arron.
By 26 months, Mia was able to say family names, as well as words such as hello, open, shut and ready, steady, go.
“Since that time, Mia’s vocabulary has continued to grow and she can now understand and use short sentences. It’s just incredible!” says Arron proudly.
Speaking to Mia’s teacher Rachel at the Elizabeth Foundation, she says: “Mia is bright and eager to learn, and is a very popular member of the pre-school. She also loves reading and writing, and is already developing an excellent knowledge of written letters - something which will stand her in good stead as she continues to develop her language, speech sounds and phonics knowledge.”
Arron says his family were fortunate that the centre was conveniently located within 20 minutes of their house. “Lots of people travel from all over the South to take their children to the foundation, so we were incredibly lucky that we as close as we are.” He explains.
As well as focusing on listening, speech and language skills with Mia, the team regularly assessed her ability and auditory development to ensure progress.
“The team were a great support in providing us with home activities to supplement the work completed in the nursery environment. It didn’t take long for our friends and family to make positive remarks about Mia’s progress, and we were – and continue to be – blown away by the foundation and everything they have done.”
Mia will leave the Elizabeth Foundation this summer, in readiness for starting mainstream school in September. Her parents feel optimistic that her future looks bright, despite the hearing loss.
“She has come on leaps and bounds since being at the Elizabeth Foundation, and we no longer feel as though her deafness will hold her back from achieving anything that she wants to in life. There was no way that we would have said that a few years ago, so we can’t thank the foundation enough.
“The teacher in Mia’s school is going to wear a microphone so that she can hear what is said through an attached transmitter. Because of the classroom-environment at the Foundation, we’re confident that it will be an easy transition to mainstream school for her.”
About The Elizabeth Foundation
The Elizabeth Foundation is a national charity supporting infants and pre-school children with hearing loss and their families. The centre helps babies and children with all degrees of hearing loss learn to listen and speak. It does this by providing nursery services for pre-school children at its Family Centre in Cosham, along with help, support and advice for families.
Address: The Elizabeth Foundation, Southwick Hill Road, Cosham, Hampshire, PO6 3LL | Tel: 023 92 372 735 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org | Website: www.elizabeth-foundation.org Twitter: @elizabeth_found | Facebook: elizabethfoundation