April 2017  Independent Online

It was a heart-warming moment for Corban, 10, and his 8-year-old sister Samantha when they heard their mom’s voice for the first time after living their lives in silence. The siblings were born deaf and parents Johan and Tania Venter both have 5% vision and are essentially blind.

The siblings recently underwent a six-hour cochlear implant operation at at the Zuid Afrikaans Hospital. After the procedure, they had to wait a month for the swelling to go down before the implants were activated.

 Corbin and SamanthaCorban, 10, and Samantha, 8, are now learning to speak after their hearing devices were switched on. 

The siblings kept on trying out different sounds and noises - and tried talking to each other. It can be difficult for children with cochlear implants to understand the sounds they hear at first. The brain has to learn how to make use of that information.  “I can’t wait for them to call me ‘mom’,” said a tearful Tania, who suffered from progressive disease retinitis pigmentosa, which left her blind. Before this, family members communicated by touch alone; the children could not hear their parents speak and the parents cannot see their children’s signs.

Erika Basson, from the Foundation For Children with Hearing Loss, said the children would require intense rehabilitation and programming as they acquired skills and developed language. The Venters said that although they were a unique family with disabilities, they tried by all means to lead a normal life. “It is amazing,” said stepfather Johan. Their biological father, who is sighted, left the family when they were both very young. Their mother recently married Johan, who is also blind. Johan said they had developed ways and means to carry out conversation. The children know to knock and bang on doors and walls to attract their parents’ attention; they help their parents in doing daily chores around the house. But he explained that when they are in a public places like a mall or a park, they could not call or see them, and this made ensuring their safety difficult. They had to rely on external help. Asked what their plans are, Johan jokingly said “We don’t know, but we will keep our ears to the ground.”