By JoAnn Wood, Au.D.
It's been 15 years since my daughter Georgie was born and her hearing loss discovered. At that time, I couldn't picture that she would ever hear me say "I love you,” or that I would ever hear her call me "Mommy.” When I found out that my daughter was deaf I imagined her struggling to learn speech and language, working hard to get good grades and having difficulty making new friends. That's not at all what Georgie's story has been like.
Since I had two sons without hearing loss, my daughter's hearing loss was unexpected. At 1 day old, Georgie failed the Universal Newborn Hearing Screening at the hospital where she was born. Two weeks later additional testing revealed that Georgie had a moderate to severe sensorineural hearing loss in her right ear and a severe to profound loss in the left ear. This was very difficult news for me and my family to hear.
After the diagnosis my husband, who also has hearing loss, and I decided to get her hearing aids right away. At 7 weeks old, Georgie was fit with her first set of digital behind-the-ear hearing aids. She wore them consistently for three years while getting extensive speech and language services and attending special programs at schools for the hearing impaired.
Unfortunately, Georgie's hearing loss progressively got worse. Even with the hearing aids, at 3 years old Georgie’s limited speech and language was far behind that of her peers. She was saying some words but only I could understand her. That made me feel sad, and I could see that it was frustrating for her. Other children her age were talking in complete sentences.
It was then that the cochlear implant became a better option for Georgie. She received an implant in her left ear at age 3 and continued to wear a hearing aid in the right ear. Within three months of implantation, Georgie's speech and language began to take off! People were able to understand her, and she became less frustrated. Georgie began to take dance classes, the start of a lifelong love.
When she was 5, and the Food and Drug Administration approved bilateral cochlear implants for young children, Georgie underwent cochlear implant surgery again, but this time on the right side. It improved her hearing and communication even more. That same year Georgie started kindergarten in the mainstream. By the end of kindergarten, she was disqualified for any speech and language services because she had completely caught up to her peers.
Universal Newborn Hearing Screening wasn’t an option when my two older sons were born, so I am grateful that when Georgie was born it was required. Her hearing loss was detected immediately.
The experience with Georgie led me to go back to school starting when she was a toddler, to get a bachelor’s, master's, and ultimately a doctorate in audiology. I have had my own practice for the past six years and I am a professor at a local private college. In fact, Georgie comes to my class each semester to talk openly to future speech pathologists and audiologists about her experiences.
Georgie will be starting 10th grade in September and takes all honors classes. She has received high honors every semester since 6th grade. She is a well-rounded and very social young lady. Georgie's love for dance has taken her to a competitive level, having won several regional awards in many genres of dance such as ballet, lyrical, contemporary, hip-hop, tap, and jazz.
Looking back I wish I knew then how well Georgie would do and that everything was going to be okay. She has worked hard for all that she has accomplished and I am very proud of her. She is truly an inspiration!