Georgia was diagnosed with hearing loss in both ears at 11 weeks of age. As her mum Stacey explains, the nerves that connect the cochlear to the brain don’t work properly. Georgia has frequent painful ear infections, bleeding and fluid build-up, leaving her with more severe hearing loss a lot of the time. She has had hearing aids since she was diagnosed but she didn’t want to look different and didn’t want to admit she is hard of hearing so she has so often thrown them away – even down toilets. She has also resorted to burying them in sandpits.
“My biggest goal in raising Georgia is letting her know it’s okay to be different, and she should embrace what sets her apart.”
Stacey wrote to us at Deaf Children Australia asking what the symbol is for the deaf in Australia because she wanted to get a tattoo as a symbol of her support for Georgia. She wrote, “My daughter is deaf and is starting to get really upset that she is ‘different’ as she calls it. I was wanting to show her she isn’t alone and is always loved. I’ve tried to show her it’s okay, teaching her that there are plenty of disabilities in life and some you can’t even see. I explained people with a guide dog have them to help them see, as her hearing aids help her to hear. I’m just at a loss as to what else to do at the moment.”
Stacey continued, “When we have seen other people who are deaf, Georgia has got so excited. She asks me, ‘Mum, when are you going to get hearing aids too?’ I tell her I will need them when I am older. I would give up my hearing to help her, but unfortunately I can’t do that.”
Stacey did the next best thing she felt she could do. She recently had a hearing aid, a butterfly and Georgia’s name tattooed behind her ear. She wrote on Facebook: “I simply got my tattoo last month because my little girl Georgia has been having a hard time accepting her hearing aids again. I’ve done so many things in the past to try and get her to love who she is and the fact that hearing devices are a part of who she is. Three years ago I started making her charms to wear on her hearing aids and that worked until recently. So I decided I would tattoo her first hearing aid behind my ear along with her name and a butterfly. She loved it, I picked her up from school and showed her with a few onlookers and her eyes were filled with joy. It made my day knowing I’ve managed to make her feel a little less ‘different’. I’m happy to have the photo shared if it brings a smile to at least one other child who is deaf or hard of hearing.”
When we shared the Facebook post, it reached many thousands of people around the world and obviously brought smiles to so many children and adults.
Stacey told the Geelong Advertiser afterwards, “I can’t understand some of the things Georgia goes through sometimes, she has some pretty tough days and I don’t blame her.” Georgia had been hiding her hearing aids more recently but since Stacey got her tattoo, she has heard Georgia introduce herself to other children in the playground by saying, “My ears don’t work. I wear hearing aids and my mum has a hearing aid”.
Children and young people who are deaf or hard of hearing may wear hearing aids or they may have cochlear implants – or they and their family may choose neither. For some young people, the technology doesn’t help them or doesn’t suit them. Whether they are aided or unaided, children and young people who are deaf or hard of hearing will experience the world differently. They need support to feel that is okay. They need support to accept their deafness and their deaf identity – to feel comfortable with who they are.
Supports through the NDIS and DCA
Georgia started receiving services through the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) in 2014. Stacey says she felt overwhelmed trying to work out the options but the case worker has been fantastic in facilitating supports for Georgia. The NDIS pays for a psychologist, occupational therapist and speech therapist and covers two hours of respite each week. The NDIS paid for a second FM unit and Stacey is hoping they will cover waterproof hearing aids as Georgia found swimming lessons too distressing without aids.
By providing a young deaf mentor and positive role model for Georgia, Deaf Children Australia can offer her the guidance and acceptance she needs from someone who has shared similar life experiences. We can help Georgia build resilience and confidence. We can introduce her to more children who are deaf and hard of hearing on our fun recreation programs and we can link Stacey up with more parents who have walked a similar path. We can support Georgia and Stacey to continue to develop their Auslan skills. Georgia has been learning some Auslan at school and Stacey would like Georgia to have more opportunities to learn Auslan and for both of them to learn more Auslan together. Deaf Children Australia can also assist Stacey with advocating for the educational support Georgia needs to have equal opportunities to learn.