03 Mar World Hearing Day | Little Aria is taking deafness in her stride
Zoe O’Neill was feeding her baby. daughter Aria one day when the smoke detector went off. While it startled the new mum, Aria didn’t jump or react at all.
“She didn’t even look at me – it was like it didn’t happen and, in that moment, I thought there had to be something wrong with her hearing,” Zoe said.
Zoe and husband Morgan celebrated Aria’s first birthday last month and while there have been some tough times over the 12 months the family are as happy as any other.
The O’Neill’s said the healthcare system had been unbelievable in supporting them with Aria’s hearing challenges.
“One of our favourite times now is putting Aria’s hearing aids in every morning while she is eating breakfast in her highchair,” Zoe said.
“She can’t wait for them to go in and she sort of screams with joy and we always get a beautiful big smile when she hears us and that’s really nice. “Only once in the eight months has she taken one out. She loves them being in so much she just leaves them there now, so surprisingly that’s not a problem at all.”
Zoe said the pair sprung to action after the smoke detector incident and immediately got a referral to audiologist Tim Rayner who visits Timboon and District Healthcare Service monthly.
“From there we were sent to the University of Melbourne Audiology Clinic – right in the middle of COVID-19 which was interesting. It was made clear to us pretty quickly that Aria needed hearing aids and that she had a deficit of 70-80 per cent,” Zoe said.
“When we found out we were speechless…we didn’t know what to do. But I suppose, as hard as it was, you just cope and adapt and get on with the next steps.
“Aria can hear noise without her aids, but it’s very muffled. So the fact she loves the hearing aids and hearing everything has made it so much easier for us.”
Zoe said Aria was referred to an ear nose and throat specialist in Geelong and they were supported to join a Victorian based program for deaf children called Aurora.
“They come to our house once a fortnight to see how she’s going and to make sure we’re doing all the right things. We do some sound testing together and they have just started a little bit of sign language, which is very early days.
“We’re pretty confident Aria will be able to manage with her hearing aids and lip cues, but time will tell when she starts talking whether sign language is something she needs to develop.”
Zoe said the couple had a great relationship with Hearing Australia in Warrnambool who fitted Aria with her hearing aids on May 28, last year.
“Thankfully we didn’t need to meet the cost of that and because she is growing so much we take her every two weeks to have new moulds made. They cost $150 and we get them at no cost as well,” she said.
“For a small amount each year, Aria gets her hearing aids, the moulds, batteries, maintenance, and replacements if they are lost – it’s amazing…we’re very lucky.”