Early onset hearing loss can double the risk of not completing school. Mother Zoe Fleming says that difficulty understanding is just part of it.
“Children with hearing loss work really hard to make sense of the sound they are receiving,” she says.
For her daughter Annie, all that hard work means she’s easily tired out.
“Before her cochlear implant, mid-morning would be about her limit,” Mrs Fleming says.
Early intervention is crucial for hearing-impaired children. Physical supports, such as the cochlear implant, need to be complemented with speech and listening therapies. Many families in the Eurobodalla are familiar with the travel involved in getting support.
“We were fortunate enough to get the assistance of an itinerant teacher for a while, but Annie wasn’t ‘deaf enough’ to qualify for that to continue,” Mrs Fleming says.
“Then we had to travel for all of the services – to Canberra, Wollongong and Sydney.”
The internet is changing the way children get help. Tele-interventions can be provided from specialists in metropolitan areas via the internet. Annie receives regular support from The Shepherd Centre, a charity founded to provide early intervention to children born deaf or hearing impaired. Her mum says these tele-interventions are fantastic.
“Annie was able to make friends and join a community of children with the same challenges.
“In a regional area, we don’t see many people wearing hearing devices, and those who do are often more mature. It’s great for Annie to see children in her position and that it’s normal.”
Annie gives the tele-interventions a big thumbs up too. “We do lots of games and talking,” she says.