Sept 2017

There was no magic moment when young Apii Pukeiti's first cochlear implant was turned on.

Unlike popular YouTube clips of other children hearing sound through the medical devices for the first time, his mum, Tofi, says it wasn't like that for the three-year-old. Born severely deaf, learning to hear was, instead, a gradual process for Apii, who received his second implant six months later.

Apii PukeitiApii PukeitiApii's mum, Tofi Pukeiti, says she's never wished he wasn't deaf, it's just an obstacle for them to push through. That was 2015, and the youngster's come a long way since then. He happily chats away to his mum at any chance he gets, loves singing, and has no problem greeting new people.

Pukeiti, who lives in south Auckland, couldn't imagine a different life for her bubbly son. "When we were first given his diagnosis I burst into tears and then I stopped and thought 'thank God that's all it is'," Pukeiti says. "He doesn't have something like a heart defect, it's nothing really.

"We've never wished he wasn't deaf, we've just taken the situation for what it is and we've just got to keep going."

Diagnosed when he was one after failing newborn hearing screenings, Pukeiti says it would take something like the sound of a chainsaw or a jet plane to get Apii's attention. The family was immediately referred to the Hearing House, a charity which helps deaf and hearing-impaired children by providing things like audiology therapy and hearing aids. It also funds for kids to receive cochlear implants. Pukeiti is thankful for the support of the Hearing House, her family wouldn't have been able to afford the cochlear implants otherwise, she says.

Apii also attends Joyce Fisher Preschool, a specialised centre run by Hearing House with staff specially trained in language stimulation to help gear children up for school. Pukeiti says Apii's speech is getting clearer and it will take a while before his hearing age reaches his real age, but she's positive he'll get there. "It can be a guessing game what he's talking about. His speech is there but when he's excited he turns to babbling," Pukeiti says. "I've noticed a difference in what he's picked up and what he's understanding. Before I would get a blank look because he didn't know what I was saying.”