A while ago I spoke to Lucie, who is mum to Harry, a gorgeous little boy who has cochlear implants. She told me about when he was diagnosed as a baby and the operation he had in order to help him hear. On World Hearing Day, I thought it was perfect timing to share this interview.
Thanks so much for taking the time to have a chat with me Lucie. Was your son Harry born deaf? If so, at what point did you realise? Did you have concerns yourself or was his deafness picked up during a routine test or appointment? Can you take us back and try to put your thoughts into words when you discovered that he was deaf?
Harry was born profoundly deaf. We had absolutely no idea until he was diagnosed at 7 weeks old. He failed his newborn hearing screening several times and then had an intensive hearing test which gave us his diagnosis. It was such a shock, I had never even met a deaf person before and we were new (very tired) parents. It was a grieving process for us for a while. I was so angry, I felt like I did something wrong in my pregnancy or that I had gotten ill but that wasn’t the case at all it was just a random thing that happened. I think it was important for me to go through those feelings though in order to process it all and feel more positive about it.
How did you communicate with Harry prior to his operation? Did you sign? How do you teach such a young child to sign?
We treated Harry just like any other baby. We talked about to him to make sure he could see that that is how people converse and we learnt the basics of British sign language which was a game-changer! Harry quickly learnt how to tell us he was hungry or wanted more of something as well as please and thank you. Sometimes we just made up our own signs for things as well because we felt like it didn’t matter as long as we were communicating. Sign language definitely helped later on when he was learning how to speak as it supported his language nicely.
What options did you have with regards to his ‘hearing future’? Was there an interim solution before surgery? Did he have to be a certain age before the doctors would perform the operation?
Harry’s only option was a cochlear implant if we wanted him to be able to hear because of his level of hearing loss. We used hearing aids in the interim to stimulate the hearing nerve but he couldn’t hear anything with them which was frustrating. There was a big wait of over a year until he could have the surgery because so many tests have to be done and also they have to be a bit older to go through the surgery.
Can you briefly explain to us what a cochlear implant is and how exactly it helps Harry hear? This is probably a silly question, but my initial thoughts are surely a toddler would be pulling at this at every opportunity, is there a way to prevent this?
A cochlear implant is a device that is surgically implanted into the patient’s ears. Electrodes are put into the cochlear which take the place of any natural hearing they may have had. The external part that you see on Harry’s head then activates the internal part and stays on with magnets which Harry and his mates all think is very cool!!
I think some parents do struggle with keeping little ones implants on but we didn’t have any of those problems with Harry. I think it was because he soon realised that if he didn’t have them on his head then he wouldn’t be able to hear and he loved sounds right from the very beginning. I think it’s important to say that cochlear implants aren’t a cure for deafness and that Harry will always be a deaf person but they do allow him to hear amazingly well when he is wearing them. There are times when he doesn’t have them on, having a bath.
I should imagine it was a very emotional time for you, can you describe the moment Harry heard properly for the first time? How did he react? How did you react?
It was so emotional but mainly just excitement! He didn’t have a huge reaction when he heard for the first time which we expected. The volume is turned on so low, to begin with, but he literally stopped in his tracks and looked around every time they played a sound to him. You can find the video on YouTube if you type in “Harry Hears for the First time”.
I love that you do not want anything to stand in his way and encourage him to lead the life of an active child. This included swimming, is that correct?
Oh totally! He is still learning to swim but we don’t shy away from it even though it can be a bit stressful. This is mainly because he has to use a different set of implants to be able to hear in the water that are waterproof. They can be a bit temperamental and he doesn’t hear as well with them but hopefully, others will be developed in the future with better technology. He is really active though and enjoys football and rough and tumble as much as the next child.
Here at Mummy Social we believe having mummy friends is vitally important in motherhood. Did you have support around you with all that you have been through with Harry?
I was really lucky and had mum friends already as well as a ton of new ones I made when I was blogging. None of them had deaf children but they were all so supportive and I never felt alone. They treated Harry like their own children and encouraged their little ones to interact with him like normal.
Interview by Danni, Mummy Social Team