The Hearing House
Elijah and Josh have two things in common. Both were born profoundly deaf, and both have a cochlear implant - sometimes referred to as a bionic ear. Elijah, aged two, is just starting to listen and talk; Josh has been listening and talking for about 17 years and sounds very much like any 19 year old New Zealander.
Josh has enrolled for a Bachelor's degree in Science and Physical Education. "I don't consider my deafness to be any hindrance at all," he says, speaking on his mobile phone. Josh was a mainstream student at King's College Auckland, doing well in maths, science, biology and physical education. He was also a North Island championship hurdler and wing in the school's 2nd XV - wearing custom-made headgear to protect his implant. "My Mum and Dad believed in me, and it fostered a similar self-belief," he says.Josh was also recently picked as a mentor to help other young hearing-impaired children develop better confidence, leadership and team building skills in a new programme, Hear For You, launched by The Hearing House in early 2011.
Elijah has only had his cochlear implant for four months. But his mother, Maria says she has seen big changes in him. "He used to be very angry and quite violent at times. Now he's no longer keeping to himself and he's not clingy. He's just so happy, interacting a lot, trying to talk - to anyone he can get to listen to him." Elijah now responds to his name and is following everyday instructions very well. Maria incorporates his therapy into his everyday life, practicing difficult sounds, singing to him, making sure he's looking and listening. Elijah and his mother attend auditory-verbal therapy once a week for an hour.
Both Josh and Elijah received their cochlear implants and therapy through The Hearing House, an Auckland-based charity. About 300 New Zealand children have cochlear implants and The Hearing House has provided the training for about half of these.
It is not clear what children actually hear through the implant, but therapy helps them make sense of the sounds and develop speech that becomes increasingly clear and natural. It also trains parents how to encourage listening and speech. The earlier the device is implanted the better the outcome. Some recipients quickly develop language skills above their age level and in early teens may be able to mimic different accents.
Attached to this page is a report that the Hearing House wrote at the end of the grant period (mid 2013). It summarises two projects that they undertook, one around reducing access barriers to their services for families and whānau, the other about using video conferencing, skype etc to provide therapy and training at a distance. Both of these initiatives have become part of the way that the Hearing House works now.