May 2017 Adelaide Advertiser

As a parent, there is nothing quite like hearing your child’s laughter. The joy in it. Its spontaneity and carefreeness. It is this sound that Daniel Carr loves most. Especially so because, for 30 years, his world has been soundless. Diagnosed as profoundly deaf at 11 months, Daniel, now 41, discarded his hearing aids as a pre-teen and has heard not a sound since then. Until now.

After much thought, he decided to get a cochlear implant. Daniel has a long road ahead to learn how to listen to the world and to recognise words and sounds but he is not going through that journey alone. His three-year-old son, Jeremy, was also born profoundly deaf, and they received their cochlear implants three weeks apart. “I love hearing the kids laugh,” Daniel says.

It has been particularly moving for Daniel’s wife, Felicia Wee, 41, to watch both husband and son turn on their cochlear implants. 

Carr family While the decision to give Jeremy an implant was a relatively easy one, Daniel’s decision to get one himself was not. “I’d been saying ‘no’ to the idea for so long,” he explains. “My personality and my sense of self, I had developed over the years. “When I started in high school, I stopped wearing my hearing aid for a few different reasons — they weren’t very effective and it was probably peer pressure at the time because I felt very self-conscious using them. “I started lip reading from the age of one, and from the age or 11 or 12 I was relying solely on lip reading and I became very good at that. “I’ve been working full-time for 20 years, I’ve travelled around the world, I’ve married and raised a family and I’ve done all those things with just lip reading. “My sense of self was defined and I thought getting an implant would change that.

“But I got to a point, where I thought it was time to try something new and go on a new adventure.”

And now, that adventure involves not only a lot of auditory verbal therapy, but trying to make sure his pre-schooler son doesn’t drop his sound processor into water. “One of our biggest fears is that he will drop it in the toilet,” Daniel says with a laugh. “I take mine off to bathe the kids, and afterwards, he comes up and reminds me to put mine back on: ‘Daddy, put yours on’ he’ll say to me.”

Jeremy’s deafness was picked up in the routine neonatal hearing testing soon after birth.

He started therapy at the Cora Barclay Centre at three months of age and by nine months was using two of the most powerful hearing aids available. But even then, he was struggling to hear. “He’s a bright boy but compared with his peers he was struggling and he was working really hard to understand people,” Daniel says. “He was only two but he was doing a lot of lip reading.

“We talked to people, did research, and the general picture people was telling us what that the cochlear implant would give him the chance to really fly.”

Cora Barclay Centre auditory verbal therapist Rachael Ward has been working with Jeremy since he was a baby. “The implant gives him good access to all of the sounds of speech required to develop spoken language,” she says, adding that two months after “switch on”, he’s making fantastic progress and is now speaking in six-word sentences, using plurals (although not all the time) and has begun asking “why?” questions. “He’s really demonstrating much more accurate imitation of words, the clarity is coming already — words are getting clearer and clearer.

“He still has a long way to go but it’s great.”

Jeremy CarrDaniel and Felicia appreciated the help they received from government services who walked them through the options available under the NDIS. “Each provider also came to visit us,” Daniel says.

“They each have their own approach in focusing on oral, signing or a mixture of both, so you can choose one that is the best fit for your child and your family. “I do believe that the Australian system offers a world-class level of choice for parents of children with deafness.” Now with his implant, everything the 41-year-old software engineer hears is louder than normal because his brain is yet to learn how to filter out the noises he doesn’t need to focus on. And by everything, it literally means everything — his wife sniffing her nose, someone breathing, paper rustling. “The microphone is very sensitive, it picks up everything and all the things that you would normally tune out — like people breathing, even clothes moving — I’m hearing all of that and my brain doesn’t know how to tune it out,” Daniel says. “It’s going to take me a couple of years to learn.”

This is different from his son, who has adapted quickly. “Jeremy already knows words that people are saying but, for me, it’s all just a lot of background noise,” Daniel says. “I probably wouldn’t have done it if he wasn’t getting one; Jeremy is definitely part of the reason.” Father and son — bonded forever by the amazing sounds of their world. Especially their laughter.