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How CHS’s support put my daughter on the path to success

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By Karen Mathewson

When my daughter, Victoria, was born premature at 32 weeks, doctors discovered she had many potentially life-threatening health issues. One issue involved a problem with Victoria’s digestive tract that caused her bilirubin levels to spike. (Bilirubin assists with the body’s clearance of waste products). This spike produced an excess of toxins in her system which, in turn, caused irreversible damage to the nerves in her ears. But because there was such an intense focus on keeping Victoria healthy on a day-to-day basis, her hearing loss wasn’t identified until she started school.

Victoria’s class had been learning about opposites. We would work on these together, but she seemed to be struggling to understand. For example, I might ask for the opposite of “thin” and she would say, “out.” Language had always seemed confusing and frustrating for Victoria and she would often have massive temper tantrums. But this time, something didn’t add up.

So, we scheduled a hearing test. There, we learned she had developed an 80% hearing loss in both ears. I was devastated to learn hearing loss was the root of her frustrations.

Now we knew she needed hearing aids, so I turned to the Canadian Hearing Society.

With the help of our CHS audiologist, we were not only able to get Victoria’s hearing aids, but we learned about other products and services available to us. With the Canadian Hearing Society’s advocacy and support, Victoria was enrolled in an Individualized Education Program at school, she received assistive listening devices to use in the classroom, and we learned communication strategies and how to advocate for Victoria’s needs with teachers.

Without the Canadian Hearing Society’s support, I feel like Victoria would have been labelled a “problem child” with behavioural issues. The Canadian Hearing Society was so instrumental in making sure we got in contact with the right people and helped navigate the system to make sure Victoria had the best education possible.

Our whole family dynamic changed, too. With the Canadian Hearing Society’s help, we learned to adapt of communication style, to really listen to each other, and to respect our limitations.

Years later, the Canadian Hearing Society was still there to support us when Victoria was accepted into the Nursing Program at Nipissing University. We made sure she went to a school that had the best accessibility resources possible, including notetakers and even a specialized stethoscope designed for someone with hearing loss. Thanks, in part, to these supports, I am so proud to say that Victoria is now working as a full-time nurse at North Bay Regional Health Centre.

Looking back, I feel Victoria’s hearing loss helped shape who she is today. I think she’s a better nurse and a better person because she’s more “tuned in” to what many other people miss. When she works with patients, she always maintains eye contact and never turns her back on them. She can see if they’re scared because she’s paying attention to them. She’s more dialled into to who they are and not just what’s wrong with them.

She’s an amazing young woman and I don’t think she’d be on the successful, driven path she’s on today without the help of the Canadian Hearing Society. I want as many people who are Deaf or hard of hearing as possible to know: you’re not alone, there is support available, and you can do something to make your lives better.

Thank you, CHS!

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