Melbourne mum’s effort to support two daughters living with hearing loss

The Russo family are much like many Aussie families – they love to travel, are big Carlton fans and have a passion for playing basketball.

However, Susan and David’s two daughters, Isabella and Sienna, were both born with genetic hearing loss, a condition which has impacted their development, education and confidence.

“It can be frustrating for the girls. They have definitely felt more isolated. Though, they have taught me so much! Their courage and resilience are always inspiring,” mum Susan tells 9Honey Parenting.

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Susan and David Russo with their incredible daughters. (Supplied)

Genetic hearing loss, known as ‘congenital hearing loss’, is a condition which is present at birth, as opposed to hearing loss that may occur due to an accident or trauma.

Susan and David are both carriers of the hearing loss gene Connexin 26, which they only found out about through genetic testing as there was no history of hearing loss in their families.

The gene meant that their children had a one in four chance of being born with the condition – both daughters Isabella, 13 and Sienna, 10 being diagnosed at birth.

“The extent of loss differs for both of our girls and also varies from left to right ears and at different frequencies. They hear, but not at what is considered ‘normal’ levels of hearing,” Susan explains.

It’s been a long journey for Susan and David who do everything they can to support their girls in every way possible.

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Sienna (left) and Isabella (right) at their first hearing aid fitting. (Supplied)

“When my first daughter was born there were lots of appointments; confirming the initial diagnosis, getting hearing aids and starting early intervention. This meant multiple sessions a week with an audiologist, testing, and disruption to normal routine,” Susan recalls.

“Lots of time spent reading and singing to the girls right in front of their faces for most of their waking hours. Being diligent about making sure the girls always wore their hearing aids, getting used to them and the sound was a critical habit to form in the early months and years of their lives.”

Outside of that, the girls have unfortunately also had to deal with a fair-share of bullying.

“Some kids are just cruel, but we have found that education is usually the best way to combat this. The girls have given speeches to their classes or at whole school assemblies. After kids have a better understanding of the issue they tend to be more understanding,” their mum explains.

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The close-nit family of four continue to navigate the challenges of the condition. The girls are heavily involved in local basketball, which has provided a positive supporting community for them.

“I also have a really good relationship with the girls Hearing Australia Audiologists who are always happy to listen and give advice,” Susan mentioned.

As Isabella and Sienna move into their teenage years, they are getting better at accepting their disability. “We teach them how to be independent with their devices and how to advocate for themselves.”

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Isabella and Sienna are incredibly close. (Supplied)

The family continues to navigate the challenges that comes with hearing loss, and hope their story can be a source of hope for other families just entering the hearing loss community.

“For parents that have just learnt that their child has a hearing loss, this realisation that their children can still live full and vibrant lives is a transformational moment. Once people realise that the girls can hear, have excellent spoken language and they go to mainstream schools they don’t see them as different,” Susan says.

Head to the Hearing Australia Website for support and more information.

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