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Sept 2017 NZ Herald

Gethin Thompson's eyes lit up the first time he heard a sound. The 15-month-old was born profoundly deaf so when he said his first word it was even more special than for most. "We were sitting at the dining room table and he crawled over and said 'up, up, up'. We all looked at each other and said 'did you hear that?'. I just burst into tears," mother Rhian Thompson said.

When Gethin was a newborn he wouldn't sit still long enough for the newborn hearing test so it wasn't until Thompson took him in for a routine audiology appointment at 11 weeks old that they found out anything was wrong. "We got the diagnosis that Gethin was profoundly deaf. It was a very big shock. That wasn't even on our radar - there's no family history of it. We were completely devastated - it came out of left field," she said. "You automatically start thinking of all the things he can't do. I think I cried for a week."

But now, thanks to cochlear implants, Gethin is able to enjoy life like any other toddler. After his diagnosis, Thompson and her husband Michael, who also have a three-year-old daughter, learned he was eligible for cochlear implants in both ears. He had surgery to have the devices implanted when he was five-and-a-half months old and had a very strong response when they were switched on a couple of weeks later in November last year. "He had that eyes wide open, 'wow, what's this' look. That day his eyes were popping out of his head in wonderment," she said. "I think it was amazement and delight.” It was a big day for Thompson too. "It's just amazing. You go through all these mixed emotions. When we found out he was deaf we had quite a period of time where we though he might never hear. Just to actually see it in his eyes that' he's heard something it was like, 'wow, this is amazing'. After having a couple of months of it being really grim...it was just the beginning of a fresh start for us." 

Rhian Thompson   Rhian ThompsonRhian Thompson with her one-year-old son Gethin who was born profoundly deaf but now has cochlear implants which allow him to hear.

Almost 10 months later Gethin now understands basic instructions and about 80-90 words. He can say eight or nine words and is always trying to say new ones. "We're ecstatic about where he's at now. He doesn't miss a trick. He seems pretty switched on," Thompson said. She said it required them to be more aware of what background noise there was, focus more on repetition and give him longer to process words and instructions but they were hopeful he would be able to lead a normal life and be whatever he wanted to be.

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