Bear Essentials: Hearing aid readies Island girl ‘to take on the world’

Abigail is a smart, outgoing 11-year-old, passionate about dance, her friends and family. For a while, Abi had complained about muffled hearing in her left ear, but her doctor couldn’t find anything wrong. When mom Allison was able to arrange a hearing test, it revealed Abi was almost totally deaf in that ear.

Fighting tears, Alli felt maybe she hadn’t advocated for her daughter enough. “I felt like I had failed her, you know?”

At the same time, Alli, the audiologist and others were shocked at the results and how well Abi had adapted.

“There was nothing that would have indicated to the school that she wasn’t able to hear because her brain just kind of reworked how she was learning and how she was hearing,” Alli says, noting early hearing tests had shown no problems; it’s suspected a severe flu in Grade 2 likely left her hearing damaged.

For Abi, “I think it was reassuring to her – like there’s a reason why I’m not hearing and it’s because I’m deaf.”

While relieved to finally have a diagnosis, the question then became how could Alli, a single parent of two young children, ensure Abi had the medical support she needed?

“We began exploring the option of a hearing aid, because while her right ear is fine, for her to be successful and learn without any further barriers, a hearing aid will only benefit her,” Alli says.

Abi’s audiologist, Donald, told them about the Children’s Health Foundation of Vancouver Island’s Bear Essentials program, and while Alli was reluctant to take resources from other families who might need it more, he reassured her that they should apply.

Helping Island children and families

A family support program that assists with the costs of health-related travel and equipment, Bear Essentials is possible thanks to the generous support of donors committed to helping Island children in their complex health journeys.

The Foundation’s response to the family’s application came quickly: “I just couldn’t believe it,” Alli recalls. “It really was a huge, huge support that Abi and I am forever grateful for.”

“With raising two kids and the times that we’re in, where everything is expensive for all of us, no matter what your income level is, I think it’s allowed that worry of another essential thing in our life to be covered – it doesn’t have to come out of our account and that money can go to other important things for the family.”

With Abi’s kind of hearing loss, high-frequency sounds such as a busy classroom or restaurant are especially difficult, so if she isn’t wearing her hearing aid, she can’t hear very well.

Alli still remembers that first moment Abi tested the hearing aid with the audiologist.

“It was so emotional… “Mum, I can hear you,” Alli recalls. “It was just amazing.”

Abi’s experience also served as a reminder of other challenges families face – challenges that can be devastating. Learning more about the Children’s Health Foundation of Vancouver Island and the Bear Essentials program, the question for Alli then became: “How can we help? Can I volunteer? How can I give back in this way?”

Today, Alli is proud of her daughter’s strength and commitment, and her kindness to her friends and family, including younger brother Jack, who heads to kindergarten in autumn. “Abi is very outgoing. She has a big personality and loves to help anybody,” her mom says.

“She’s ready to just take on the world now.”

Learn more about the Children’s Health Foundation of Vancouver Island at Find information about the Bear Essentials program here, where you can also donate securely to support Island children.

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