Mia started Auditory Verbal therapy at AVUK in 2016 with her mother Rayan and father Mohamed. Rayan, being profoundly deaf herself, shares her personal experience and her AV journey so far to challenge common perceptions of deafness.

There was always a strong chance that any child I would have, would be profoundly deaf. I am profoundly deaf and even though my husband is not, the chances of having a hearing child were 50/50. 

After a relatively smooth pregnancy, I was sure that my child would not be born deaf but Mia, my beautiful little girl failed her first and second hearing screening tests.  We were told that this might be due to water in her ears because of quick labour and were referred to the RNTE hospital for further tests, but that did not bring the good news that we were hoping for. The ABR testing confirmed that Mia had bilateral profound hearing loss. She was three weeks old. I was utterly heartbroken and inconsolable. 

As a deaf person myself, I should not have been so devastated by the news, but all I could see at that moment was not everything I have done and will continue to do but all the difficulties and barriers along the way. Now my daughter was going to have to go through all of what I had to as a child. She would not be able to speak on the phone, follow group discussion, listen to music or enjoy the theatre. She will feel isolated when everyone is talking at the same time and will be underestimated in the workplace by those who do not know better.

My mother who was with me during the testing and who perhaps could best understand what I was going through turned to me and said “You are the best thing that has happened to your father and I. Mia is a blessing and will be the best thing that ever happens to you too. Be strong Rayan, she will be a star!" I will never forget those inspiring words by someone who knew what it was like to have a deaf child.

My early childhood had been spent in Sierra Leone, where my access to the support system was extremely limited. Nobody really understood what deafness was and did not know how to approach it. I was diagnosed at eleven months old and was fitted with hearing aids just after. My success is all down to my parents, especially my mother, who never gave up on me and who taught me that nothing comes easy unless you fight for it and work hard. I never understood why she spent so much time just talking and singing to me. Now I do because I am doing exactly the same thing with Mia. By the age of three and half, through determination and hard work, I started developing spoken language and went to a mainstream school. 

I was now determined to do all I can to make sure that Mia would have the same love and support I had growing up.

We have been extremely lucky that Mia has had access to an excellent support system. We were advised from the start that a cochlear implant would be the best option for her and would give her the best possible outcome in life. We knew very little about cochlear implants and so joined a toddler group and the NDCS to learn more about it and we were amazed by other childrens’ progress. We just knew that this was the right path for Mia and that the hearing aids she was fitted with at ten weeks old would not give her the adequate access to sounds that she needs.

Being deaf myself, I understand how it feels to have a hearing loss and even though I have lived such a happy and wonderful life, I knew that based on my experience, it was going to take an incredible amount of sheer determination and hard work to get Mia to achieve her best potential. Before having Mia, I had never contemplated having a cochlear implant but now I felt that it would give me additional access to sounds and improve my quality of life. My surgery was scheduled for just a month before Mia's surgery and let’s just say, it was an absolute rollercoaster. The outcome of my switch on was unexpected and honestly very disappointing. It was incredibly hard for me and I struggled to adjust to background noise. Sounds and noises overwhelmed me initially and the thought of Mia going through that brought constant tears. I wondered if going through with getting the implant had been a good idea and if I had made the right choice for myself and for Mia as well. But as weeks passed, I started to adjust to the new sounds and it started making more sense to me. I was amazed that I could hear high frequency sounds so well which I had never been able to with my hearing aids. The sounds gradually became more natural and I was starting to hear birds chirping, house appliances beeping, the fire alarm and most importantly my baby crying in the other room. It was not easy to begin with but it is worth it.

Mia had the surgery at eleven months old and was switched on just before her first birthday. Initially, we did not notice any difference in her reactions and I was told this is normal. Then came the second switch on when Mia jolted at the sound of the drum and her eyes widened in shock. That is when our journey with her began and she entered a new world full of sounds. Her curious eyes would just light up when she heard a new sound. It was just magical. By the time she was fifteen months old, she had a vocabulary of up to twenty words. 

I was told about AVT by Mia's teacher of the deaf and became interested in the approach. Therefore I contacted them to see if I could learn anything from AVT that would help further build Mia's language skills. She started AVT in February 2016 and she absolutely loved it. Not only was her vocabulary expanding rapidly, but she was also learning to develop two to three word sentences in a matter of weeks. I felt so fortunate to be able to give my daughter this crucial opportunity to train her mind to listen in such a natural, fun and creative way. One of the most valuable things I learnt from AVT is to be Mia's mother, not her teacher. 

I still cannot believe how far she has come. She is just flying. She shouts, whispers, sings her favourite songs, dances with joy to music and says NO to pretty much everything. With the constant input of her loving and caring family, her speech therapists and teacher of the deaf, Mia is the most wonderful, sociable, confident, cheeky and chatty little girl. 

My mother was right. My daughter indeed is a blessing and the best thing that has ever happened to me. She is a shining star and a force to be reckoned with. All the hard work is paying off and I could not be more proud.

Mia's mother, Rayan

Rayan and Mia with Auditory Verbal Therapist, Noel Kenely. 

Mia in an auditory verbal therapy session.