Cochlear implants give preschooler the gift of sound

Loud Shirt Day 2020 is being held on Friday, 23 October. Kiwis throughout the country are encouraged to dress up in their brightest outfits and raise vital funds to help children and adults with hearing loss.

Rachna and Sunil Goyal can’t believe it’s been more than two years since their son Rhythm was fitted with cochlear implants. 

“It’s made a huge difference – if his cochlear implants weren’t there, we wouldn’t have his sound in our lives.”

Rhythm, now three years old, was born profoundly deaf in both ears. He was diagnosed when he was a baby after failing his newborn hearing tests. The family tried using hearing aids, but unfortunately, they didn’t work.

“It was heartbreaking news for us,” says Rachna.

The Goyal family decided to explore cochlear implants, a life-changing surgery that they say was one of the most important, but challenging, decisions they’ve ever made. At just eight months old, Rhythm was fitted with two cochlear implants.

“We met with other families from The Hearing House, including an Indian family – both boys had cochlear implants. That was when we could see the benefit to their growth and development.”

Rhythm, and thousands of other adults and children with cochlear implants, are the focus of Loud Shirt Day 2020 – a national fundraising event and awareness campaign being held in October. New Zealanders are encouraged to dress up in their brightest outfits and hold fundraising events at workplaces, homes and schools throughout the country. 

Loud Shirt Day is the annual appeal of The Hearing House (THH) and the Southern Cochlear Implant Programme (SCIP) – the only two charities in New Zealand dedicated to helping children and adults with a cochlear implant learn to listen and speak. 

The programmes and services offered by SCIP and THH include assessment, cochlear implant surgery, listening and spoken language therapy, audiology, and outreach programmes for regional and remote patients. Both organisations are also committed to clinical research and professional development.

Surgery and the subsequent switch-on is only one part of the cochlear implant process. Patients need to learn how to use the technology and interpret the new sounds through ongoing audiology and speech and language therapy.

Rachna says the first few months were difficult, as Rhythm adjusted to the implants and learnt to hear and speak for the first time. Today, she says Rhythm won’t stop talking and loves music. He’s even learning words in multiple languages, including English, Hindi and Māori.

“His vocabulary and language skills are much better, and his reading skills have improved. He is truly like his name. He loves music, and he loves Bollywood music. If he is crying, you can play music, and he will calm down.”

Sunil says The Hearing House in Auckland became an integral part of their son’s journey. He says the speech therapy programme helped him communicate with Rhythm and learn how to teach his son – in a way that he could understand. 

“The Hearing House does a really good job. They are giving language and hearing to our kids. We hope people generously donate so that they can support more and more kids like Rhythm.”

loudshirtday.org.nz