In the first several months of Leo’s life, his parents began noticing he didn’t react to noises around him. He never seemed startled by the loud barking of the big family dogs. At 8 months old, he was diagnosed with hearing loss and referred to the Alberta Children’s Hospital, Leo underwent auditory brainstem response testing, where electrodes were hooked up to his head to monitor brain activity stimulated by various frequencies and sounds put in his ears. Soon, specialists were able to confirm some difficult news – Leo suffered from profound hearing loss in both ears. While they had suspected this might be coming, it was a heartbreaking confirmation for Sara and Wes, who now had to process that their son had never heard their voices. They worried about his future – what would it look like? How would he feel when he realized he was different?
Leo was fitted for hearing aids, but they didn’t offer much help. Sara and Wes met with ENT surgeon Dr. James Brooks about the possibility of their son getting cochlear implants. They were very wary at first, but when they realized it was the only option for him to learn to speak out loud, they decided to go ahead with it. Leo’s surgery was June 1, 2015, a week after his first birthday. The operation was a success, though there was a month of recovery time before the devices could be turned on. At first, the volume was turned on very low so Leo could gradually adjust to all the sounds around him that he had never experienced before. In the following weeks, it was increased bit by bit. It was Day 10 when Sara knew her son could truly hear. She stood behind him and called out to him and, for the first time ever, he turned around. It was a beautiful moment.
Sara and Wes found out that Leo’s hearing loss was genetic when Sara was halfway through her second pregnancy. Sadly, when baby Violet was born, she too was diagnosed with profound hearing loss. It was deflating news for Sara and Wes, having watched their son struggle with this already, but at least they felt prepared to help their daughter. They have already met with Dr. Brooks about the possibility of getting Violet cochlear implants after she turns one.
These days, Leo is doing great. He comes to the hospital once a week for speech therapy and he’s pretty much caught up to where a child of his age should be. Sara says she couldn’t ask for a better team of people in audiology and speech therapy to care for her children’s needs.
To hear more stories like this or to donate to the 2017 Caring for Kids Radiothon in support of the Alberta Children’s Hospital Foundation visit www.KidsRadiothon.com