My husband Richard and I were so thrilled to greet our second son Leo on 23 February 2015. But at five hours old, he had a routine screening test for hearing, and showed no response. ‘It could be mucus,’ the doctor said. But I knew something wasn’t right.
You see, I’m profoundly deaf as a result of a gene defect. I can read lips and I wear a cochlear implant, a device that replaces the function of the damaged parts of the ears.
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Our first son Oliver, now 7, had passed his screening, but Leo hadn’t been as lucky. At Leo’s second screening, the following week, he still wasn’t responding. More tests showed Leo had bilateral severe sensorineural loss, meaning his inner ear is damaged. He wasn’t able to hear us cooing over him...
Doctors weren’t sure what caused his condition, but it was different to mine. The consultant said Leo’s hearing would never be restored and he’d need hearing aids for life. We were upset, but at least I knew the challenges he’d face and could help him with them.
At six weeks old, Leo’s hearing aids were switched on. The audiologist clapped and Leo jumped – he could hear! ‘Leo…’ I said, relishing my boy finally hearing my voice.
Leo, now 5, has adapted well to his aids, but needed more powerful ones after his hearing got worse in late 2016. He’s was also assessed for a cochlear implant, like me.
In 2017, our boys were in a video for charity Action On Hearing Loss, promoting Deaf Awareness Week, and we watched proudly as they signed to the camera, ‘I’m supporting Deaf Awareness Week’. The charity got in touch after reading Richard’s blog about our family, 2 Bottles Of Milk. We got involved so we could help others in our situation by raising awareness and normalising deafness.
‘It’s nice to know we’re not alone,’ I told Richard. And while we’re around, our brave Leo never will be.
Bilateral sensorineural hearing loss: the facts
Bilateral sensorineural hearing loss refers to deafness in both ears that stems from damage to hair cells in the cochlea – or hearing nerve. This type of hearing loss often prevents sufferers from hearing or understanding speech. Cochlea hair-cell damage cannot be reversed or cured.