It’s the moment baby Lachlan’s life changes forever as he hears voices for the first time, and the video capturing his response – his first-ever smile – is wowing people across the world.
The video shows seven-week-old Lachlan Lever crying as his first hearing aid is fitted. That all changes as he begins to hear the voices of his mum and those around him. Wonderment quickly turns into a beautiful, beaming grin – and an emotional response from mum Michelle Lever. “I’ve never been so happy in my whole life,” she told Babyology yesterday. “Before the hearing aid was turned on he never smiled. His whole world just opened up completely. It’s like he just realised there’s a whole new world out there.”
Lachlan, now two, was diagnosed with moderately severe sensorineural hearing impairment in both ears at four weeks old. Three weeks later, his hearing aids were fitted. Ms Lever posted the video to oral language centre Taralye’s Facebook page in November 2012. But it didn’t go viral until it was shared by a man in the United States last Thursday – during hearing awareness week.
“It’s mindblowing,” Ms Lever told us. “On Saturday night I went to bed and it had 6000 shares, and by time time I woke up it was 40,000. We’re getting messages from all over the world saying, ‘Thank you for sharing the video’.
“I’m just so blessed that it’s occurred during hearing awareness week. It’s showing so many families in a similar situation that there’s hope after the diagnosis. When Lachlan was diagnosed, I was devastated, I think I cried for 12 hours straight. Because there’s no hearing loss in my family, I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know any deaf people; now I’m parenting a deaf child. I thought, ‘I’m not going to be able to communicate with my son’.”
She turned to Taralye, an early intervention centre for children and families with hearing loss in Melbourne’s east that relies on donations. Chief executive Therese Kelly says the video has brought great attention to the importance of good early support and diagnosis for children with hearing loss. She says children’s reactions vary wildly when hearing for the first time: “Some cry, for some there’s not a lot of reaction.”
Taralye has been inundated with offers of help from all over the world. The post has been shared more than 380,000 times, has more than 275,000 likes and 16,000-plus comments – and Taralye’s Facebook following has risen from the low hundreds to more than 4000 in just a few days. “Obviously the right person has come across it and it’s taken off,” Ms Kelly says.
Ms Lever says with Taralye’s “amazing”physical and emotional support – including monthly home visits – Lachlan lives like any other two-year-old. “We haven’t learned sign language. Lachlan understands everything I say to him. The majority of time he can do things. My husband and I are so surprised he’s doing so well,” she says.
“The hearing aids are invisible to us because it’s just a part of him. We try really hard not to treat him differently to our other children (daughters Chloe, 9, and Jessica, 6). I’m really glad it’s gone viral because there must be mums of children who have just been diagnosed out there all over the world who can see it’s OK, that children can lead active, happy lives and social lives.”