Aimee C.’s daughter, Bella, is a star in gymnastics. She is continually striving for excellence, with eagerness to advance and get better in the sport. Though being in gymnastics with hearing loss does present some challenges, Bella has continued to thrive, relying on her visual learning style and perseverance. Hear about the great things she is doing in gymnastics:

Bella, star in gymnastics with hearing loss“At 18 months, we realized Bella was not talking or saying minimal sounds. She did not hear the door chime in our house or the dog barking. Being that she has three older siblings who spoke earlier, I became concerned. One day our daycare teacher told me they were calling her as they were leaving the playground, and she noticed Bella was not responding to her name.

When Bella was 2 and a half years old, she had her first hearing test, which showed a severe hearing loss. The audiologist commented that she was surprised at how calm I was about the results. From the beginning, I looked at Bella’s hearing loss with the following motto ‘what can we do now to get her to where she needs to be.’ After an MRI, we found that vestibular aqueduct syndrome was the cause of her hearing loss.

Therapy and school plans

Bella received services for speech therapy and had a teacher who came to the house after she received hearing aids. Around this time, we started going to a center for hearing and communication therapy, though her therapist was an hour away. Within one week of visiting her therapist, Bella was saying over five words. Prior to this, she was making up her own sign language and would become frustrated in trying to communicate. The teacher who came to our house taught her a few basic signs in their lessons as well.

Bella, gymnastics with hearing loss

After receiving many speech therapy sessions and Ling Sound tests, her therapist felt Bella would benefit from cochlear implants. Prior to receiving her cochlear implants, Bella’s speech therapist and doctors recommended Bella be placed in a total communication school, where she would receive oral and sign language. Their recommendations were based on evaluations completed at the beginning of her diagnosis, but Bella had expanded her vocabulary and improved her communication skills. I was adamant about placing her in an oral school because she had limited speech and was about to turn 3.

Moving forward with cochlear implants

Bella received her first cochlear implant in her right ear in November of 2009 and the second on the left in May of 2010. We chose the Cochlear Nucleus® 5 Sound Processor due to its design and technology components, as well as the great reviews. Over the years, Bella continued with auditory-verbal therapy and received speech therapy in school. Bella was mainstreamed from the Deaf and Hard of Hearing class to a general education classroom in first grade and had the assistance of an oral aide and a sound system. Last year Bella transitioned to the school where I teach. She succeeded in fifth grade and is currently in sixth grade!

Bella with medal, who does gymnastics with hearing loss

Bella’s main passion: gymnastics

Bella is very passionate about gymnastics. At about 5 years old, she showed an interest in gymnastics and could do a cartwheel. One of her friends at school would teach her new skills, and after that, Bella started taking classes. She was placed in a Beginner class, but she quickly moved up levels. At the end of every session, she would find out if she moved up and then get to earn a color ribbon. When she reached the Intermediate Two level, it took a few sessions for her to move up to the Advanced level. She was always interested in which skill she needed to continue to move up a level. Bella reached her goal of moving up to Advanced and started attending classes three times a week.

Bella currently is on Level Bronze Excel at her gymnastics studio. In addition to the three times a week classes, she also goes to their open gym on Saturdays for three hours. She continues to get private lessons to assist her in reaching her goals too. Bella often watches girls on higher levels and aspires to master new skills. Her goal over this past year was to be able to do a back handspring and now she can do several, as well as a back and front tuck. Bella visual learning style has helped her achieve her goals at gymnastics.

Bella who does gymnastics with hearing lossShe has faced some frustrations and stepping-stones, such as her sound processor flying off when she is on bars or on the floor. Sometimes, she also struggles at not being able to properly hear the teacher due to the loudness of the gym and larger class sizes (Cochlear tip: the newer Nucleus Sound Processors–the Nucleus 6, Nucleus 7 and the Kanso®– are all compatible with the CochlearTM True WirelessTM Mini Microphone 2+, a portable wireless clip-on microphone to transmit speech and sound directly to your sound processor that can be especially helpful in loud environments).

As a solution to keep her sound processors on, early on she would wear a Cochlear Hugfit to help secure them. This year has been a very successful one for her on Level Excel Bronze, and she aims to reach as high as she can in competitive gymnastics.”

Has your child been diagnosed with hearing loss? Take the first step to your child hearing today.

Cara Lippitt
Cara Lippitt is the Senior Manager, Social Media Strategy at Cochlear Americas. Cara is inspired by the stories of the recipients that she is able to tell and the incredible journeys they have taken. Cara was born and raised in Colorado and adores the mountains, snow and the world of musical theatre.