By Amanda Miller
“It could just be that she has fluid on her ears. We will try again,” was the response given to Toriana Bell when her newborn, Victoria, had failed her first hearing test while in the hospital.
However, during the stay, Toriana began to feel that perhaps there was something wrong. While surrounded by family and friends, Toriana noticed that–despite all of the noise–Victoria would still sleep peacefully. And unfortunately, the results of the second hearing test didn’t bring any comfort to the family. Victoria had failed once more.
The family was referred to a local audiologist who conducted a similar hearing test that is also performed at the hospital. When the results remained unchanged, they did an Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR) Test. This test showed that little Victoria had severe profound hearing loss in both ears.
“Her father and I were in denial at first, and it really took a toll on me. Victoria is our fifth child and we haven’t had anything like this in our family before. But, God has put these doctors, the therapists, all of these people in our lives for a reason. When we cried, they cried with us. It wasn’t until the audiologist told us that we have to be strong for her that we came out of the denial,” says Toriana.
The family learned that if something wasn’t done about Victoria’s hearing, as she grew older, her hearing would diminish even more and she would eventually be silent. However, at four months old, Victoria received her first pair of hearing aids. And while the hearing aids are not helping her to hear as normally as she should, Victoria is still thriving.
“She babbles with her siblings. She loves to hug and she’s very independent. Amidst all of my tears during this, she has remained as happy as can be,” Toriana shares. Victoria has already started learning sign language, too, at the early age of one. She knows how to sign when she wants to eat, how to ask for more, the signs for Mom and Dad, and bath. Through sign language, the entire family has been able to communicate with her.
Later this month, Victoria will be undergoing cochlear implant surgery on both of her ears. With this surgery, the doctors believe that Victoria’s hearing has the potential to be 100 percent restored. However, there will be work ahead.
Suzanne Trahan, a speech and language pathologist and audiologist who has been working with Victoria, shares, “I like to tell people that this isn’t magic. Even after the surgery, there’s a lot of work ahead. She will need a lot of therapy, but Victoria has everything a baby needs to get it done. Victoria is social and interested and has a family that is willing to do the hard work. Toriana is incredible. Everything Victoria needs, she gets it done.”
Toriana encourages all parents to get their children’s hearing tested. Even if they don’t notice anything is different, still have them tested just to make sure everything is normal.
Now a year old, Victoria has already been through a lot. But, throughout it all, she has been strong and happy.
“My mom told me that even if Victoria cannot hear, she can feel. She can see our emotions. So if we are sad, she can see that. I always try to smile now. While I wish it was me instead of her, Victoria is happy, and I am not going to take that away from her,” says Toriana. ■