Cochlear implants open up the world
There’s more to hearing than just a flick of a switch for hearing-impaired children. Reporter Jess Lee sat in on an auditoryverbal therapy session to see the work that goes on behind the scenes, in the lead-up to this year’s Loud Shirt Day.
WILL my child be OK?
That’s the first question an anxious parent asks auditoryverbal therapist Lydia O’Connor after learning their baby has a hearing impairment.
Fast-forward four years and that child will be starting school, most likely with speech and language skills on a par with their hearing peers.
But it is a long journey to get to that point.
Therapists at The Hearing House in Greenlane work alongside families of deaf and hearing-impaired children to teach them to listen and speak.
About 93 per cent of deaf children who graduate from The Hearing House will go to mainstream schools.
The parents of 4-year-old Finley Tutaka-Brown expected the worst when they discovered she was profoundly deaf, her mother Kerri says.
The Mt Albert family considered the options for Finley and decided cochlear implants were the right choice ( Auckland City Harbour News, September 9).
A cochlear implant is a surgically implanted electronic device that provides a sense of sound to a person who is severely hard of hearing or profoundly deaf.
‘‘When we first started [therapy sessions] we were overwhelmed and kind of wondering how she would end up,’’ Kerri says.
‘‘We’re totally blown away by how well she’s done – it’s better than we could have hoped for.’’
Finley has attended weekly auditory-verbal therapy sessions since she was a baby and her speech and language should be top-notch by the time she starts school in October.
O’Connor says it is the children’s families putting in the hard yards outside of therapy that makes the biggest difference to their development.
This can mean narrating a trip to the supermarket, working different word groups into everyday conversations, singing and maintaining normal interaction.
‘‘One of the main priorities of auditory-verbal therapy is coaching the parents,’’ O’Connor says.
‘‘Some parents may be thinking ‘oh my child’s deaf, they can’t hear me’ and stop talking to them altogether.
‘‘Even though your baby is profoundly deaf there is still a chance that the auditory nerve is still picking up a little bit of sound.’’
Therapy can start as soon as hearing loss is diagnosed through newborn screening.
There were no other organisations teaching spoken language to deaf children when The Hearing House formed in 1998.
O’Connor says the therapy does not undermine sign language which remains an option for parents and is also an alternative when implants aren’t effective.
‘‘There are people in the deaf community who perhaps don’t believe in what we do but we are big about parental choice – we never force down a parent’s throat.’’
Most children who visit The Hearing House have hearing parents, she says.
‘‘Often for parents their deaf baby is the first deaf person they’ve met in their life.’’