Sophie was diagnosed with bilateral hearing loss at four weeks of age. Testing during her State-Wide Infant Hearing Screening (SWISH) test suggested that further diagnostic tests were required and during this, it was confirmed she had severe to profound hearing loss in both ears.
At the time Sophie’s parents Shannon and Phil were in total shock. They had no history of hearing loss in either family, and no reference point to what the diagnosis might mean for Sophie’s development and future. Like many parents of children with a disabling loss, Sophie’s devastated parents felt they had ‘failed’ their newborn baby.
At the hospital, Shannon and Phil received a bright orange folder filled with information about what to do next. Amongst all the material was what Shannon refers to as her “shining light”, a brochure about The Shepherd Centre.
Despite the closest centre situated an hour away in Wollongong, the specialist audio verbal therapy The Shepherd Centre offered gave the parents hope that Sophie could have hearing and spoken language future.
After joining The Shepherd Centre, Sophie received her first cochlear implant at eight months old, followed by her second at three and a half years. After that first implant activation or “switch on” Shannon recalls Sophie reacting to the sound of the microwave beeping eight metres away.
‘That was the first time I realised this could work! After that, there was no stopping her. Another pivotal moment was when she was about three and she told me to stop talking!’
Sophie is now in year six at primary school and thriving alongside her hearing peers. One of Shannon’s initial fears, when she learned of Sophie’s diagnosis, was that she’d never be able to go to a mainstream school. Fast-forward to today and Sophie can confidently hold school assemblies, participate in public speaking and most recently was awarded, school captain.
‘I feel like she is proof that kids with hearing loss can do anything,’ says Shannon, ‘I do wish I had a magic ball that would show me her future, but its times like this that calms my mind about her ability to lead an extraordinary life.’
At the moment Sophie hopes to be a midwife when she grows up. Shannon acknowledges how reassuring it would be for parents to be able to talk to a midwife with cochlear implants, when faced with a hearing loss diagnosis in their newborn baby.
‘I would love to see her advocate for kids with hearing loss and to mentor kids who might need someone, like them, to tell them everything is going to be ok and that they can achieve everything they’ve dreamed of.’
Today one in 1000 babies are born with hearing loss, making it the most common disability diagnosed at birth. With your support, The Shepherd Centre can help more children just like Sophie achieve confidence in school. Donate today.