Meet Sophia Not, a thriving seven-year-old gymnast who wears bilateral cochlear implants. Sophia enjoys competing in Level 2 gymnastics. Her mother, Danielle Vickers, has played a pivotal role. She has reached out to share their experiences.
Hearing Loss Journey
The family’s story began with a failed hearing screening at birth. Before leaving the hospital, one ear failed the screening. The physicians were suspicious of fluid in the ear. Thankfully though, they recommended Sophia meet with an audiologist at an ENT. From the ABR test results, they concluded that little Sophia had bilateral sensorineural hearing loss that ranged from severe to profound.
After receiving this surprising news, the Vickers had to quickly research their options for what they believed was best for Sophia. The overall decision was to get bilateral cochlear implants at 15 months of age. Her mother says she was was initially nervous about the surgery, but now wishes they had gone through with the implantation sooner.
“Never give up,” she says, sharing advice with others who may be going through a similar experience. “Don’t be scared. Surgery sounds more intimidating than it is. The kids are so resilient. The same night of surgery, Sophia was bouncing off the walls. Continue to have therapy. Improvement comes at the child’s speed!”
“Never give up. Don’t be scared. Surgery sounds more intimidating than it is.”
Navigating gymnastics with hearing loss is a unique but enjoyable experience for Sophia. As a Level 2 gymnast, Sophia needs to wear a headband around her head to secure her cochlear implant processors. When Sophia began in gymnastics, she had specific challenges to overcome.
“When Sophia first started, she had a hard time following the beat for her floor routine,” her mom says. “Over time, she mastered it by lots of practicing.”
Sophia’s parents have noticed that she has a more difficult time hearing when there is background noise. Her mom wishes that people recognized that hearing loss causes brain fatigue due to the strenuous effort it takes to listen.
Every night, they charge four batteries and place the cochlear implant processors in a dehumidifier. Sophia must make sure the additional two batteries are fully charged in case her battery dies before she goes home that day.
After receiving her cochlear implants at 15 months of age, Sophia began speech therapy. During this period, she received more inclusive schooling. By the age of five, she was placed in a mainstream setting where she reached the same level as her peers. The only areas that Sophia has fallen a little behind in are reading and language arts, which is common for children who are learning to hear. Sophia has partaken in additional therapy and has tutors. She has continued to persevere on and enjoy her favorite sport of gymnastics.
Vickers encourages other parents to not treat their child with hearing loss any differently. “It will help them challenge themselves to be at their utmost potential,” she says.
Abigail Russell is a second-year medical school student at Indiana University School of Medicine. She is a bilateral hearing technology user, utilizing both a Phonak Naída and Cochlear Implant. Ever since she was diagnosed as a little girl, she has been an advocate for those with hearing loss. She loves spending time with people, enjoys coffee, and cuddles with her puppy, Rosie!
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