Thursday, 5 March 2015

Emma's Hearing Journey - Part One

Lisa and I actually met through our husbands. Believe it or not, we’ve only met four times in the last seven years. Seriously. It is only thanks to Facebook and Christmas cards that we’re still in each other’s lives.

She is a mom-extraordinaire, who once claimed to fame for having 4 children under the age of 4.

She is an entrepreneur, working out of her home and creating luxury items for Mom and Baby – such as custom made burp cloths and nursing covers through her company, Made Just for You by Lisa.

She is an avid runner, completing more half-marathons than I’d like to attempt in my life.

She is now a mom to a hard of hearing daughter.

Her story reminds me so much of my parents’ journey with me, and she has willingly agreed to share her story with us. No matter how small or big a hearing loss is for children, the impact is felt first through their parents.

Lisa’s story will be shared in two parts. Part 1 covers the discovery and initial concerns that Lisa had for Emma. In contrast, part 2 looks at Lisa’s navigation in the Canadian Medical system and adjusting to a new reality.

Emma’s Hearing Journey – Part 1

By Lisa Whelton

I have a confession to make. As I write this, I am sitting in the back seat of my van, watching my 5 year old daughter play with her friends on the school playground.  She looks happy on the swings, laughing in the sunshine with her disheveled hair and wearing snow boots that are not necessary on such a beautiful day.

The beautiful Miss Emma.
Photo Credit: Shayna Kerrie Photography (

From where I sit, she looks no different than any of her peers. But upon closer inspection, you will notice that she is wearing her new hearing aids.  (Purple with sparkles, naturally!)

Emma proudly sporting her new hearing aids!
Photo Credit: Shayna Kerrie Photography (
About 18 months ago, when Emma was 4, we began noticing that she seemed to be ignoring us more.  I chalked it up to selective listening, as she was frequently busy colouring or engaged in some other activity. She also seemed to take a long time to answer questions.  We assumed she was just slowly thinking of a response, but it also sometimes appeared as if she was disinterested in conversing - and I grew concerned that people would think she was being rude or dismissive. With these concerns in mind, I decided to visit our GP to have her ears checked.

As a newborn, she passed the standard screening test with flying colours.  Emma has never had an ear infection to my knowledge, but something just didnt seem right.  If all of this was just selective listening, then we needed to address that behaviour and correct it.  On the other hand, if Emma was not genuinely hearing us, then we needed to address that as well.   Our GP said that nothing looked unusual in her ears.  Nothing was inflamed, her ear drums looked healthy and there was no fluid. He told me to call the local Public Health Unit to book a hearing test if I wished, but that there was no need for immediate concern. 

I did follow up with Public Health, but their system was backed up and it would be months before I could plough through the paperwork required to request a hearing test.  So, I decided to wait until she was in Kindergarten as I knew there would be vision, dental and hearing screenings done at the school anyway.

Emma was having no trouble in preschool during this time. She played well with her friends and her 3 younger sisters. Although, she did have some noticeable speech issues - the letter swas often mistaken for an f(cafe instead of case, for example) and fwas sometimes changed to d(lead instead of leaf.)  Still, nothing was particularly alarming as many children her age pronounce words incorrectly.

The Whelton Family at Disneyland!
At the end of September, the Public Health Unit came to her school and did testing with all of the Kindergarten students.  I was not surprised when I received a notice saying that Emma was being referred for further hearing tests.   At least now we were getting somewhere and I had something concrete to go on.   As usual, Public Health was backed up and said it would be anywhere from 4-6 months for Emma to see an audiologist so I opted to have her hearing tested privately.  There, they determined that she had a 30% hearing loss.

I will never forget the moment that I heard how significant her hearing loss was, and when the audiologist suggested that she may need hearing aids, I felt like I had been punched in the gut.  In the van on the way home, Emma said something that broke my heart.  Mommy, I cant hear things all the time!I spent most of that evening choking back tears, as I grieved the loss of her normalchildhood.  I wondered if she would be picked on at school, if she would feel like she doesnt fit in.  I thought of the boyfriends she wouldnt have because of her hearing aids and of what else she would potentially miss out on.  I felt terribly sad for my Emma, even though on a rational level, I knew it shouldnt be any different than children who have to wear glasses.   We arent dealing with a horrible illness like cancer or a debilitating diagnosis, I told myself.  Get a grip!   But a mothers heart is often irrational when she worries for her child.

We were referred back to our GP, who would then refer us onto a paediatric ENT (ear, nose and throat specialist.)   Perhaps there was something that could be done medically to reverse the hearing loss - I was hopeful that it would be as simple as inserting tubes and we would call it a day.

Read up on the rest of Emma’s Hearing Journey – Part 2 next week!



  1. What a beautiful family! Thanks for sharing Lisa... look forward to Part 2.

  2. What a beautiful little girl, and such an inspiration as well. Glad to read that the hearing difficulties have not really slowed her down at all. This was really a touching post. If you do not mind, I am going to share it with my class so that they can see what bravery under duress looks like.

    Ruby Goodman @ Centre Audiology

    1. Absolutely! Please feel free to share with whoever could benefit :)