When Hear and Say’s school hearing screening program visited five-year-old Sadie’s Prep classroom last year, her parents Nicole and Simon were curious to see what the results would show.
“We had concerns about Sadie’s hearing as she zoned out while using technology, and often turned the volume up high,” said Nicole.
“As most toddlers do, Sadie had trouble regulating her emotions. We felt that this went on longer that it should though, and when she was three years old we explored a number of different avenues. This included visiting an ear, nose and throat [ENT] specialist who discovered she needed to have her tonsils and adenoids removed. However, after the surgery we still suspected something else was going on.”
As an experienced primary school teacher, Nicole said she often corrected Sadie’s speech, and needed to work closely with Sadie at home to ensure she was “keeping up” with her peers.
“It is only now that we realise how much harder she was kicking under water to convince us all that she was floating like the rest of her little friends,” said Nicole.
When Sadie first began using an iPad at four and a half years old, her parents noticed that they had difficulty getting her attention – leaving them wondering whether she was ignoring them, or if she could even hear them at all.
This ultimately led to a visit to the family GP, who gave Sadie a referral for a hearing test. However, Nicole and Simon still wondered if they were being overcautious.
“Friends told us that their kids zoned out when using iPads or watching TV too – and sometimes Sadie would respond and we’d assume she was hearing us but choosing to ignore us.
“This was coupled with the fact that Sadie had passed her newborn hearing screen test. To be quite honest, we had no idea that even though a child could pass at birth, they may still have or develop hearing loss later on.
“With the uncertainty of COVID, we postponed booking a hearing test and continued to work on using a reward system for ‘listening ears’ when Mum or Dad were talking.”
Working at the same school that Sadie attended gave Nicole the opportunity to chat to Hear and Say’s Hear to Learn team about her daughter’s results that same day.
“My heart sunk as I put on a brave face to listen to Sadie’s results, which had shown a potential hearing loss in both ears,” recalled Nicole.
“I thought of all the times I had said, ‘Sadie, why aren’t you listening to me?’ or when I had become frustrated that my child was ignoring me, and I wished I had acted sooner and followed up earlier.
“However, before I could add more reasons to feel guilty, Hear and Say’s screener, Helen, reassured me about what to do next, and that Sadie would be able to receive some great support if needed. I immediately called Hear and Say and booked a full hearing test that same week.”
A series of appointments followed including with Hear and Say, an ENT specialist and Hearing Australia. Less than six weeks after the initial screening at Sadie’s school, she was fitted with her very own set of pink hearing aids.
“We are completely overwhelmed by the difference these amazing little hearing aids have made in both Sadie and our lives. She is so much happier, more confident and hearing all of the new sounds for the first time has been an adventure. The smile on her face says it all!” said Nicole.
“We have also noticed such a great improvement in Sadie engaging and interacting with us and her peers without becoming distracted.”
To others, Nicole encouraged all families to consider adding a hearing test to the list of their children’s “must-dos”.
“All children will ignore their parents from time to time, but it is heartbreaking to realise that they may not have actually been hearing you. There’s no harm in checking if you have any concerns about your child’s hearing, and if hearing loss is detected then the support available can open up a world of possibilities and opportunities.”