April 2017 Starts at 60
A video of a baby boy hearing his mother and father speak for the first time has been warming hearts around the world. Lachlan was diagnosed at birth with moderate-to-severe hearing loss in both ears and was just seven weeks old when he was fitted with hearing aids on each ear by Australian Hearing. His parents say they cried tears of happiness when his hearing aids were switched on and they saw his face light up at the sounds around him. The magical video of Lachlan been viewed over 4 million times since it was uploaded to the internet in 2014, and continues to be viewed today. It’s one of many online videos showing people hearing for the first time or recovering their hearing, and they almost always end in tears of happiness.
Australian Hearing audiologist Emma Scanlan has been present at many moments like the moving ones caught on video. She says witnessing babies like Lachlan hear for the first time, or seeing an adult patient hear again after years of silence, is always emotional. “We’re all crying by the end of it,” she says. “I’ve seen both children and adults hearing for the first time or hearing again after a very long time of really struggling to hear. They’re a bit shocked at first generally. You can see they start to smile especially when it’s the parents there in front of them and they then associate that sound with the parents very quickly and it becomes a very joyful experience.”
But many Aussies are waiting too long for their own moment like this. Hearing loss affects one in six Australians, ranging from sensorineural hearing loss – often caused by ageing – to conductive hearing loss, which can be caused by a blockage in the ear or damage to the hairs in the inner ear.
However, on average, Australians put off getting their hearing tested seven years after they first start to notice changes. Scanlan says Australian Hearing is working to close the gap here because so many people are living with hearing difficulties instead of addressing the issue. “The people that do the best are the people who act immediately,” she explains. “Our hearing naturally declines with age because the hairs protecting the inner ear start to deteriorate.” The inner ear is filled with tens of thousands of little hairs and through repeated use or through battering from noise as we get older, these hairs lose their elasticity and don’t work quite as well as they used to,” Scanlan says.
She said hearing aids, cochlear implants or a combination of both are all popular options for those dealing with complete deafness or hearing loss.