Sept 2017 Limping Chicken

A deaf model who appeared in a photograph used in an advert for Virgin Active has complained after realising that her cochlear implant had been photoshopped out of the image. In a Facebook post, Simone Botha Welgemoed (who is also a dancer and was Miss Deaf South Africa in 2012) who describes herself as “proudly hearing impaired,” said: They just went and without my permission decided to edit the cochlear implant out, because why!!??? It does not fit with their pretty little picture of portraying the perfect life that is Virgin Active? 

Simone Botha Welgemoed

Virgin Active response follows:


Sept 2017

With one hand holding a Thomas the Tank Engine toy and the other hand grasping the side of the family home's sliding door, Otis Smith stepped outside, listening to the gentle sounds of spring, smiling.  Otis, from Buckland, near Pukekohe, loves his toys. He is happy, cheeky and carefree, as his mother Collette Smith describes. But at the age of 3, Otis has only been able to hear for less than a year.

Otis SmithOtis SmithHe was born with a hearing impairment after Collette contracted cytomegalovirus (CMV)  when she was pregnant, and despite the minor health concerns generally associated with CMV, it can have serious effects on the developing baby.  As a result, at birth Otis was diagnosed with moderate hearing loss in his right ear and  profoundly deaf in his left ear. He required a hearing aid and a $50,000 cochlear implant (CI), which was surgically implanted in November last year. 

"We didn't find out he had it (hearing loss) until he was born," Collette said. "They sent the placenta and bloods away to get tested and they were right, it turned out to be CMV.  "I think it happened quite early on when his ears would have been developing. I was absolutely gutted. I felt guilty more than anything else because he got it from me. It was a shock ... it was heart-breaking," she said.

Although both of Otis' ears had been impacted by the CMV, only his left ear required a CI. 

This posed an issue as the CI would only be "funded if Otis needed it in both ears," said Collette. "We just wanted to get his hearing right.” So the family set out to raise the $50,000, but they weren't going to be able to do it alone.  "The community got behind us massively to help fundraise for his CI. We couldn't have done it without them.” Collette ran bake sales and sold superhero masks and capes, while the Rotary Club of Franklin and Cafe Kaos in Pukekohe both hosted quiz nights.  The biggest fundraising event was a garage sale that was held at the Buckland Hall, which Collette was able to hire for free. With help from the community, there were items for sale that had been donated, fire engine rides, hot food and even a bouncy castle for the kids.  The money was raised in eight weeks, which meant Otis' could receive his CI sooner than originally planned. 

"He responded to sounds really well," said Collette.  Thanks to the Hearing House, a charity organisation for deaf children, Otis now attends free speech therapy sessions every Friday and audiology sessions every two months where they are doing "mapping" to make sure that he is getting the correct level of sound through his CI.  "It's really nice to see that there is some development. Although it is slow, it's not slow for him ... he is doing so well and we are so proud of him," Collette said. "We were just grateful [it was only his hearing that had been affected]. It's still such a massive thing that he is going to have to deal with in his life but it really could have been so much worse."

Sept 2017 Arizona State University

Lauren Hayes takes the idea of “feeling the music” to a literal level. Hayes, assistant professor in Arizona State University's School of Arts, Media and Engineering, works with haptic technology, or touch-based technology. Haptic feedback allows composers and performers like Hayes to deeply understand new and self-built digital instruments and to know how the music actually feels, which influences the musical outcomes both in composing and in the live performance.

But Hayes is more than a composer and performer. She also sees the benefits of researching haptics and of expanding education in electronic music. “My current research in this area involves a Herberger Institute-funded research project in collaboration with ASU Speech and Hearing Science examining the benefits of using haptic feedback for music perception in cochlear implant users,” Hayes said.

Laren Hayes

Lauren Hayes, assistant professor in the ASU School of Arts, Media and Engineering researching digital music and haptic technologies

Throughout her career she has given multi-sensory workshops that use vibration and music to explore the links between sound and touch. These workshops included working with several groups, from those with sensory impairment to students with learning difficulties to people with autism. Earlier this year she spoke about a large-scale project called Sound, Electronics and Music that provided education on various topics related to sound and music technology to around 900 school children in Scotland. “A particular emphasis was placed on providing a form of music education that would engender creative practice that was available to all, regardless of both musical ability and background,” Hayes said. “The findings and outcomes of the project suggest that we should not be restricting the discussion of how to continue to educate future generations in the practices surrounding computer music to the university level. We may be failing to engage an age group that is growing readily familiar with the skills and vocabulary surrounding new technologies.” Hayes hopes expanding electronic music education will bring more people to the art form. Her research on this project won her the Best Paper Award at the International Computer Music Conference in 2016. “If we do the hard work surrounding how we present and teach music technology, and to whom, we might have a much richer diversity of people making electronic music, which, of course, can only lead to better art and better music,” she said.

Sept 2017 Toowoomba Chronicle

A Lockyer Valley boy has lost his hearing, but is lucky to be alive, after suffering from a severe case of Influenza A, that led to meningitis and a blood clot on the brain. Seven-year-old finally headed home after spending close to three weeks in the Lady Cilento Children's Hospital.

Kynan Meara-FletcherKynan Meara-FletcherA Go Fund Me page was set up to support the Gatton school boy and his family, with the youngster losing his hearing 100 per cent in both ears and needing cochlear implants. To lift his spirits, players Daniel Bowles, Thomas Kristensen and Shane Stefanutto from Kynan's favourite sporting team the Brisbane Roar, came to visit following his surgery. Bianca Morrish set up the Go Fund Me page on behalf of Kynan's parents Michelle and Chris, which has now raised more than $6000. "Kynan is the light of his family. His life is a blessing they celebrate daily," Ms Morrish said. She said Kynan was a healthy boy who loved school, soccer and playing with his friends up until he was admitted to hospital. The money raised will go toward Kynan's therapies, the cochlear implant, weekly specialist appointments, accommodation, medical bills, equipment, travel costs, loss of income and support and care of the family's other children. "Kynan will need four months of treatment to hopefully dissolve the clot that has formed on his brain. He has had numerous tests, scans, operations and needles, with lots more to come," Ms Morrish said. The family said Kynan seemed to still be in good spirits despite his ordeal, requesting a steak dinner his first night back at home.