This week is Deaf Awareness Week, an annual event that promotes the positive aspects of living with deafness, raises awareness and promotes inclusion.
In the Isle of Man a small number of children are born with significant hearing loss each year. Eliza Kelly is one such child and to raise awareness her mum Rachael discusses some of the challenges they have faced since her daughter was born in January 2020.
Like all new-borns Eliza was offered a routine hearing test, but when it didn’t go to plan a visit to Alder Hey was arranged.
It was at this appointment Eliza’s parents were told she was profoundly deaf.
‘To be told there was something wrong with our little star was devastating. I remember asking if it meant she couldn’t hear herself laugh or cry? The doctor said it did. That moment really bought it home. For a brief spell we mourned what we thought life was going to be, but with a new-born you don’t have time to dwell.’
Raising a deaf child is a challenging experience for both the child and parents, so having the right help and support is crucial – especially in their formative years as they access sound and learn language.
At three months Eliza was fitted with her first hearing aids but there was no wow moment. It wasn’t until she received a more advanced pair some months later that she would respond to her parents’ voices for the first time.
‘It was a very special moment,’ her mum said. ‘But on the flip side I remember pushing Eliza in my shopping trolley soon after and a teenager stopped and shouted look… that baby has hearing aids. It really upset me. Until Eliza got hers I would have associated them with older people and it really made me think.’
Following months of online assessments and trips to hospitals in the UK, Eliza eventually underwent a cochlear implant operation in Manchester the day after her first birthday.
‘It was the best possible present but it was a very scary experience for Eliza to have her very quiet world suddenly filled with strange sounds. We’ve been told that one in every 1,000 children are born with a hearing impairment of which 40% will not know the cause – we still don’t.
‘We had no idea about these figures until we had our beautiful daughter but I wouldn't change her for the world. She has taught us so much already.
‘Choosing to have the operation was one of the hardest decisions we have had to make. Cochlear implants aren’t a cure but they will give Eliza the option of speech, listening and sign so she can choose if she wants to wear her processors when she’s older.’
Eliza now has a listening age of three months and her parents are delighted with her progress.
She will continue to be supported by the paediatric audiology clinic on the Island and the Hearing Support Service, which is part of the Department of Education, Sport and Culture. The service supports children, and their families and teachers throughout childhood.
‘If anyone asks me when I’m out and about I will happily talk to them about the amazing science and technology that made it possible for our daughter to hear our voices and the music she now loves dancing around to. I would like to thank all the people we have met on this journey – their kindness and support has been invaluable.’
How can I be more deaf aware?
- Make sure you have the person’s attention before you start speaking.
- Stand or sit in a place with good lighting, so that you can be lip-read.
- Try to find a quiet place to communicate with little background noise as this can be distracting.
- Use your usual voice level. If a deaf person uses a hearing aid it can be very uncomfortable for them and can seem as though you are shouting.
On Saturday 8 May (12pm – 1.30pm) the Manx Deaf Society are holding a drop in session (3 Somerset Road, Douglas) with a chance to learn about lip reading, sign language and advice on help they can offer. Find out more - https://www.facebook.com/manxdeafsociety