Kristy Kelly is happy with three-year-old son Riley’s development since receiving a cochlear implant to improve his hearing.
Kristy Kelly is happy with three-year-old son Riley’s development since receiving a cochlear implant to improve his hearing. Adam Hourigan

Deafness a shock to mum

KRISTY Kelly remembers enjoying her moment as a first-time mother to newborn son Riley, but all that changed after a routine screening test detected hearing loss.

Before she knew it, Kristy was taking Riley to the John Hunter Hospital in Newcastle, where tests revealed the diagnosis of profound deafness.

Despite working with children for years in the childcare industry, Kristy had no experience with hearing-impaired children and the fact she was facing it with her newborn baby was staggering.

"It was certainly a shock at the start, especially as we were never given a reason why Riley was hearing impaired," Kristy said.

Following his diagnosis, Riley was referred to Australian Hearing and received his first hearing aids at three months of age. Monthly appointments followed to assess his progress.

"At 18 months of age I noticed that Riley's speech was not developing like other children of his age," Kristy said.

Riley was recommended a cochlear implant for his left ear to restore his hearing, while keeping an aid in his right ear as this still provided hearing benefit. The cochlear surgery was a success, although Kristy warned that the result wasn't instant.

"After cochlear switch-on day we expected he could hear, but he looked up at the audiologist as to say, 'Why are you putting these weird noises in my ear?'"

"However, after four to six weeks we certainly noticed the improvement in his speech," Kristy said.

"Now we visit a speech therapist fortnightly in Lismore to help Riley develop his sounds. It was rough at the start with all the travelling to appointments. But once we were transferred to the audiologist closer to home things got easier."

Riley, now three years old, still visits Australian Hearing, where he is under the care of specialist audiologist Jeannette Wilson.

Kristy said Riley haven't looked back since receiving the gift of hearing.

"Although it has been a difficult journey at times for our family, Riley's hearing loss hasn't stopped him at all," she said.

"Even after the surgery, he was straight outside playing.

"He is really enjoying life and his social skills are great."

Australian Hearing manager Karina Morrison said early detection was important in children.

"Children use their hearing to learn about the world around them and develop communication skills," she said. "The earlier you detect hearing loss in a child, the better."


To look for

  • Not aware someone out of sight is speaking.
  • Asking for repetitions or saying "what?" frequently.
  • Doesn't respond to loud noises.
  • Speech development is slow for their age.
  • Increasing the volume of the TV or sitting very close to the TV.
  • Problems with behaviour or learning in the classroom.