Abigail McQuay and her parents Carla and Bruce braved the camera to share their story about hearing loss in a video series called I Want You To Hear.
The family hopes the conversations between parents and their children inspire other Red Deer families to discuss pediatric hearing loss and why early intervention is so important. They also discussed how Cochlear implants have helped 14-year-old Abby.
Abby’s parents heard about the video opportunity through Cochlear, who makes the implants that help provide sound to those who are deaf or have a very hard time hearing. They were looking for kids in specific age groups to take part in the video.
The video series had Abby and her parents asking questions to each other around hearing loss.
“We didn’t see the questions until we sat down. It was a total surprise. We didn’t really know what to expect. We were just in a room and we didn’t know how they were going to edit it or what they were going to use,” said Abby’s mom.
“Some questions were like, ‘What were your thoughts about me becoming deaf’ or ‘How did you feel knowing or learning about it?’ There were some hard questions,” said Abby.
Abby’s parents found out she was profoundly deaf shortly after she turned one-year-old, after receiving a referral to the Calgary Children’s Hospital and meeting with an audiologist. The process was a struggle for not only Abby, but her parents too.
“In the beginning it was the end of the world when we found out she was deaf. We really didn’t know. It wasn’t early detected. At the time Red Deer Hospital didn’t check newborns, so she was a late diagnoses at about 18 months when we went to the children’s hospital in Calgary,” said Carla.
Abby got her first surgery to her right ear before the age of three and her other ear at around six-years-old.
And she said she is happy to have gotten the Cochlear implants, as they’ve helped her greatly.
“It has been a struggle along the way but I do think it was the right choice and I’m very happy with it,” she said.
Her mom added that the implants are now done at the same time.
“If you’re born deaf it’s more important to get the implants earlier, because if you’re born deaf and wait until adulthood, it doesn’t work. Your brain won’t accept it, or has a very difficult time accepting it. You’ll probably never really learn to hear,” said Abby’s father Bruce.
He added that’s why they now test on kids and babies, implanting them bilaterally before they’re a year old.
Although it helped her hearing, it was still a struggle at first.
“When they were turned on it was very overwhelming. She didn’t know what she was hearing. The comprehension wasn’t there. People thought as soon as soon as she had the one implant that she’d be able to talk and say sentences,” said Carla.
“She’d never heard a language,” added Bruce.
The hearing process was a journey, with her parents doing a lot of speech therapy with Abby in and out of the sound booth, listening to other sounds and knowing what things sound like.
Abby said it was about getting to know the different sounds and trying to catch up like the other kids did with the comprehension.
Before deciding on the surgery, Carla said she had talked to other parents who had the surgery done on their kids, so she then thought it was the right thing for her daughter.
“I needed proof that it was going to work before I’d consider her having the surgery, so I’m just hoping that people seeing and meeting Abigail can know that it’s an option,” she said.
Abby said the Cochlear implant was a great opportunity and is a good option for others to consider.
“I just think it was a really good decision for my parents and I’m really grateful that it’s out there and that people can choose to have the Cochlear implant,” she said.
“She was so frustrated in the non-hearing world. She was so frustrated that we knew there had to be something else,” added her mom.
The video was released on YouTube and the Cochlear web site a few weeks ago.
The family went down to Florida last February to film the video to help inspire other deaf teens and give parents some options for their children. There were also other families in the film talking about their experiences.
In terms of plans for the future, Abby hopes to be an audiologist.
“I want to help people be able to hear, talk and write. I think it’s a really cool job and I think it would be a lot of fun too.”
Abby currently attends St. Francis of Assisi Middle School.