Allie received a cochlear implant two years ago, when hearing aids were no longer enough. Now, she’s on a mission to help other children who are deaf or hard of hearing.
Allie’s journey to a cochlear implant
Now thirteen years old, Allie was born on the west coast of the United States. Mum Amy recalls that newborn screening didn’t identify any hearing loss. Shortly after, Amy and Allie moved to Australia. Allie had a speech delay but that was attributed to a diagnosis of autism.
Fast forward to Year 4 and Allie was experiencing progressive hearing loss to the point where she was missing instructions in the classroom. Mum Amy also noticed Allie was missing conversations and couldn’t figure out why.
Allie had another hearing test.
This time, she was diagnosed with hearing loss in both ears. Allie was initially fitted with hearing aids but after a small amount of time Allie needed a better solution, particularly in her right ear. Following a referral, Amy discovered RIDBC’s cochlear implant program for her daughter.
Supporting Allie every step of the way
After consideration, Allie and Amy decided a cochlear implant was the best hearing solution. RIDBC audiologist Maree McTaggart and RIDBC speech pathologist Greta Wieland began preparing them for what to expect and how to achieve the best outcome with a cochlear implant.
By choosing to access cochlear implant services through RIDBC/SCIC, Allie had access to a multi-disciplinary RIDBC team of support including Maree, Greta and RIDBC social worker Glenys Lindeman.
The RIDBC team ensures Allie has access to the vital services she needs.
Allie remembers playing hearing games with Greta that developed her skills to ‘learn to listen’ via the cochlear implant in her right ear, and meld this with sound from her hearing aid in her left ear.
She also received regular cochlear implant mapping from Maree after her sound processor was switched-on, which optimises the access to sound as familiarity with the device increases.
“The team at RIDBC are amazing, we finally found them after a couple of years of understanding what Allie’s hearing loss meant. Now, since receiving the cochlear implant Allie is shining,” Amy said.
Audiologist Maree said “Allie’s an amazing girl and both her and mum have been committed since the start to making a cochlear implant work. Allie has achieved good outcomes by putting in so much effort.”
The impact of Allie’s cochlear implant
In Allie’s own words, “Receiving my cochlear implant has been a big change and I can hear more,” she said.
“She also talks more, which is not always a good thing,” Amy said jokingly.
Today, Allie accesses sound bi-modally. In other words, the cochlear implant in her right ear is supported by a hearing aid in her left. She also connects her cochlear implant to the latest technology, allowing her to stream phone calls, music and more direct to her sound processor.
Advocating for children with hearing loss
Allie’s journey with hearing loss and with a cochlear implant made her appreciate that other children like her were facing their own similar journeys. So, Allie and her Mum Amy are committed to sharing Allie’s experiences, to help others.
They established a YouTube channel to share videos with her followers. The most watched video with nearly 18,000 views is Allie’s cochlear implant journey from surgery to switch-on.
“She’s always excited to hear the journeys of other children from all over the world who have seen the video, to support them,” said Amy.
Allie’s Deaf Apparel
In addition to her YouTube channel, Allie is also the founder and creator of Allie’s Deaf Apparel, a clothing range for children who are deaf or hard of hearing, which she promotes on Facebook. From swimming rash vests to t-shirts for the skate park and bike riding, Allie’s in-demand clothing was borne out of a need to create awareness of hearing loss.
“Creating the clothing was a way to break down barriers and share,” Amy said. “Activities that require the [cochlear implant] device to be removed can be difficult without hearing, particularly when there are lots of people around.”
She continues, “It creates a conversation starter, people regularly ask questions. We can share what it is like and it creates awareness in the community which is so important.”
“We receive positive feedback all the time and people always say what a great idea it is, which is nice to hear. And if it makes children embrace their deafness than it has done the job,” said Amy.
For Allie, the clothing has/have a practical element too, “I didn’t want people to think I was rude if they spoke to me and I didn’t respond. I’m not being rude, I just couldn’t hear them. By making them aware that I was deaf, it helped a lot.”
Allie’s all about inclusion
Allie has chosen to communicate using a spoken language. But she understands others have not, and that people choose to sign. So, Allie is learning Auslan (Australian Sign Language), hoping it will enable her to communicate with even more people who are deaf. She even started a school signing club with lunch time lessons taught by her school itinerant teacher, with many of her friends learning alongside her.
Two years since receiving her cochlear implant, Allie has begun another big chapter in her life in 2020 – starting high school. Good luck for the next exciting chapter Allie!
To start exploring whether cochlear implants could be right for you or your child, contact the RIDBC Client Care team via the phone on 1300 581 391, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or online by visiting www.ridbc.org.au/scic.