Nov 2017 Townsville Bulletin
A unique family has experienced the joy of hearing in a new way, after two of three siblings all suffering from hearing loss had cochlear implants switched on. Siblings Joe, 14, Etty, 10, and James McDonough, 8, all suffer from progressive hearing loss linked to a genetic disorder, and all underwent surgery in March to have their first cochlear implants inserted. After another surgery, Joe and Etty have just had their second cochlear implants turned on for the first time, allowing them to hear out of both ears. Etty and James said going through the process of getting their hearing back had been made easier by doing it together. “The last surgery I had, Joe was with me, and he was just making it a lot more comfortable for me,” she said. “I think it will be a lot easier at school now because I can hear my teacher and all my friends.”
Eight-year-old James said it was emotional seeing his sister cry with happiness when her second implant was switched on. “I was really happy for her,” he said. James still has enough hearing to only require one cochlear implant, but the possibility of requiring a second like his older siblings in the future is high. “I’m a bit nervous, but it’s in a few years’ time,” he said.
The Cairns family have travelled to Hear and Say Townsville almost 20 times in less than two years to give the three children the opportunity to hear like any other kids. Mother Kitty McDonough said while the travel was extensive, she was just thankful the children had the opportunity to hear again.
“You don’t even factor the inconvenience to your life because it’s all about the kids getting what they need to be able to fully function in society the way we all do,” she said.
The family found out two years ago that the three children had progressive hearing loss after one of Etty’s teachers suspected she may need her hearing tested. “It’s been a bit of a whirlwind 20 months, but we’re here now and we’re nearly at the end of this part,” she said. Father Terry McDonough said he was thankful for the knowledge his kids would be able to hear the outside world. “For so long they’ve been without, and to see that today is quite emotional,” he said.
“We’re very grateful to Hear and Say, and for our kids to be able to hear what normal kids hear all the time, it's very special.”
Terry, Joe, Etty, Kitty and James McDonough at Hear and Say Townsville.
Hear and Say audiologist Liza Bowen said “The McDonough kids passed newborn screening, they’re the kids that aren’t picked up early because their hearing loss occurred gradually from early childhood,” she said. Ms Bowen said cochlear implants would drastically improve the children’s long-term education and employment prospects, as well as improving their everyday lives and relationships. “At Hear and Say we like to get children optimally aided, or have the best hearing as early as possible, and work intensively with their speech, language and listening skills so they can do just what any other child can do,” she said. Ms Bowen also said the moment a child heard properly for the first time wasn’t just emotional for the family. “Switch-on days make my job, I love them,” she said. “I love being able to help kids and families, by providing sounds kids can reach their full speech and language potential. “And I think Etty’s giggle is adorable.”
Kitty said all the children were doing well academically which disguised the signs that something was wrong with their hearing. “It was a real eye opener for all of us, and a reminder for all families to seek specialist help if they suspect their child may be missing out on critical developmental milestones in particular hearing, listening and speaking,” she said.
All three children are continuing to receive listening and spoken language support from their home in Cairns via Hear and Say’s telepractice program.