By Jess Grieveson-Smith
A mum-of-two has been left deaf after giving birth due to a rare genetic defect that attacked her hearing during pregnancy.
Kate Llewellyn-Waters thought there was something wrong with her newborn baby, Beatrix, after giving birth as she didn’t think she was crying – however the reality was, her daughter was crying, but giving birth had caused her to lose 60 per cent of her hearing.
And when her second child, Albert, was born two years later, she lost a further 10 per cent of her hearing – leaving her 70 per cent deaf.
After losing her hearing during her first pregnancy, doctors didn’t immediately notice the connection between Kate’s sudden deafness and her pregnancy.
But she’s since been diagnosed with otosclerosis – a rare condition that means pregnancy hormones cause the bones in her ear to grow, blocking her hearing.
Kate said: “I had no idea I was going deaf, not at all.
“I was pregnant so lots of changes were going on and I didn’t notice my hearing loss till my husband noticed I wasn’t hearing him as well.
“I noticed the initial loss during my first pregnancy when I entered the third trimester, but I didn’t quite make the connection.
“I was told straight away that it was bone growth – and it would only improve with a risky operation that is likely to leave me completely deaf.
“But the changes were so little, I didn’t think anything of it but after giving birth to Beatrix, my hearing almost instantly declined.
“After having a C-section, I began to panic as I couldn’t hear Beatrix crying but she was crying, I was just deaf.
“The diagnosis was very hard – I was living on limited and broken sleep, and I was also back part-time working.
“It was a lot of going to hospital to see the audiologist with a newborn in tow, and I remember being so confused as to why this had happened to me.
“It was very hard getting answers, and the audiologists said it was so rare.”
Kate added, “I found out that my grandmother had lost all hearing in her left ear, whilst pregnant with my father.
“Now, I feel like I’ve turned into my grandma and am now slightly older than my years.
“My hearing has continued to decline, and currently I’m at 70 per cent hearing loss.
“There is an operation available, but it can go wrong, and lead to complete deafness.
“I was only told last year about the operation and it still wouldn’t help with the sensorineural loss.
“I could never have imagined how much it would affect me further down the line.”
“I’m fortunate that my hearing aids allow me to hear a little, but before they managed to get them to work, I had to rely on lip reading.
“My children have learnt they need to be more patient as I can’t always hear them, although my hearing aids are fantastic.
“I have alarms and monitors in my children’ rooms, so even now at the age of three so I can hear them when I am downstairs and they are upstairs.
“We’ve had to learn to adapt, and it was a side effect of pregnancy that I definitely wasn’t expecting.
Kate’s hearing has not improved, and she relies on her children Beatrix, six and Albert, five, to be her ears when she’s looking after them.
Kate added: “Since my first pregnancy, and the first decline in my hearing, I was referred straight to Kingston Hospital audiology department.
“Now, my hearing loss has deteriorated to severe, and it can be an issue at times.
“They found it the second time because doctors thought to check it – as it was such a rare thing to happen first thing time around.
“I’ve found the hearing loss caused increased anxiety especially as my fear is that I may not hear the children when they need me.
“I wear a hearing aid and it definitely improves this but it’s still hard.
“Every audiologist I have seen exclaims, you’re so young to have this condition.
“It’s frustrating because every audiologist has tried to recommend an aid which I can hide and disguise, so no-one can see it.
“It feels so incredibly wrong, as what message is this promoting to young children diagnosed with hearing loss and needing to wear an aid?
“I could go totally deaf if I had a third child, but I don’t regret for one moment having children!
“I definitely won’t be having a third though!”