March 2021 7News.com.au
The moment an eight-month-old baby heard his parents speak for the very first time has been captured in a heartwarming video. Brisbane baby Cohen Gorman was born profoundly deaf in March last year, despite there being no history of hearing loss in the family and no indication during the pregnancy that there was something wrong. “When Cohen was born, it was this instant overwhelming feeling of love, he felt like our missing piece,” Cohen’s mum Tamara Nevin said.
“My pregnancy with Cohen was pretty uneventful, in fact I would say that I really enjoyed being pregnant. All his scans showed a healthy little baby. We had no idea that there would be anything wrong with his hearing.”
But after failing three newborn hearing screenings, Cohen was referred to an audiologist where the news was broken to his parents. “The week between his tests felt like forever and we would do our own tests at home, playing music into his ear, or making loud sounds to see if he reacted,” Tamara said. “Sometimes he would react and we thought he was ok, other times he didn’t.” Despite having support from family, finding out their child was deaf was very confronting, Tamara said. “I blamed myself a lot for his hearing loss, thinking it was something I did while I was pregnant,” she added.
“My partner then had to support me and our baby and adjust to parenthood. It was a very different feeling than what you would expect when you welcome a baby into the world. And that’s hard because that’s a time we can’t get back with Cohen.”
Initially, Tamara and her partner Brian thought Cohen’s diagnosis meant he would never be able to hear and talk. “One of the first things I said to our audiologist was, ‘so our son will never hear us say we love him'. It was heartbreaking to think of. We grieved, in a sense, because we thought he would miss out on things, that he wouldn’t get to experience everything we hoped he would.”
At eight months old, Cohen had cochlear implants put in. The infant was finally able to hear when the implants were turned on a week after surgery, in a heartwarming moment for his parents.
“Cochlear implants have given Cohen the gift of sound and for that, we couldn’t be more grateful,” Tamara said. “Now he turns to us when we call him, he sways when he hears music. The implants will allow him to access sound so that with the help of listening and spoken language therapy, he will listen and talk like a ‘typical hearing’ child.”
Cohen and his parents Tamara and Brian
Tamara hopes Cohen will grow up to have the same possibilities and potential as any other child, except with a few more accessories. She now wants to bring awareness to hearing loss, especially in newborns and children, and let other parents know that support is available for both parents and children.
Mark Fitzpatrick, Chair of First Voice - an organisation that helps children with hearing loss develop spoken language – wants the same. Fitzpatrick said despite the fact that children born deaf in Australia can learn to hear, listen and speak like a child with typical hearing, most Australians – 94 per cent – don’t know that that is the reality. “Most critically, 84 per cent of Australians don’t know where to turn to for support if their child is born with or develops hearing loss. The possibilities for deaf children are endless. With early identification, excellent technology, and world-leading therapy and support in the early stages of life (and beyond), anything is possible for these children. 99.9 per cent of all Australians have an oral language, despite one in six Australians having a hearing loss. Supporting children to develop their own speech early in life opens up all kinds of possibilities for them later in life, including the way they want to communicate. Most importantly, it will provide them the opportunity to engage in the community that they want in the way they want to.”