New articles are published every month under the headings below.

Queensland’s Senior of the Year Dr Dimity Dornan of Hear and Say helps improve deaf children’s lives

Dec 2017 Our Mail

Dr Dimity Dornan, has dedicated decades of her life to bringing sound to the lives of deaf children. If the senior years of life are supposed to be about doing nothing much except ticking off everything on your bucket list, Dr Dimity Dornan did not get the memo. There’ll be no lying back with a margarita on some exotic faraway beach for her. Instead, it’s business as usual for Queensland ­Senior of the Year 2018, the state’s entrant in Australian Senior of the Year, to be announced on January 25. Recognised worldwide for her groundbreaking work changing the lives of thousands of deaf children by helping them learn to listen and speak, Dornan was Queenslander of the Year in 2010, but admits to being slightly taken aback when approached to be Queensland’s Senior.

Pip Russell etc(left-right) Queensland Local Hero winner Pip Russell, Queensland Australian of the Year winner Johnathan Thurston, Queensland Senior Australian of the Year winner Dr Dimity Dornan, and Queensland Young Australian of the Year winner Phillip Thompson

“I suppose it’s really quite funny, I’ve now moved up to the senior section!” she says in our interview in one of the beautifully designed rooms at Hear and Say’s premises in Brisbane’s inner-west Ashgrove, which opened in 2015. “The Senior Australian of the Year people rang and asked if I’d like to accept it and I said, yes, I’d love to, but then I had second thoughts later on. (I told them) if I had to be Queensland’s ­Senior Australian of the Year, I’d really like it if you didn’t use my age if you can possibly do it.” But isn’t there a certain irony here? A person of senior years being feted for her achievements not wishing to mention her age? “I prefer to be treated as a professional, rather than have age define me,” she says. “I just feel that it’s such a competitive world, it’s much better to compete on your merits, rather than your age.”

Let’s just say then that Dimity Dornan, PhD, AO, ­author, speech pathologist of more than 50 years’ standing, inspirational promoter of the largest paediatric cochlear implant program in Queensland, which has used Auditory-Verbal Therapy (AVT) to empower some 10,000 children to fulfil their potential in life, is older than 60 but younger than 100.

Hear and Say – the private, not-for-profit organisation she ­established in 1992, treating six young ­patients from rooms she shared with her physiotherapist husband Peter Dornan in the inner-western Brisbane suburb of Toowong – has just celebrated its 25th birthday. A new book cele­brating the history of the centre, Sounds of Hope: The Hear and Say Story written by Brisbane author Madonna King and published by University of Queensland Press, was launched by Governor Paul de Jersey.

Hear and Say now has six centres around Queensland, treating children and their families here, as well as around the world, using new telecommunications technology that allows face-to-face interaction. The acclaimed facility ­offers its services to any deaf baby or child no matter where they live. Currently two in every 1000 babies are born deaf in Australia each year and it is the most common disability in newborns. Hear and Say ­relies largely on fundraising on top of ­government grants, and part of Dornan’s job as its executive director is being its tireless advocate, a lobbyist par ­excellence, a passionate and moving speaker whose eyes still fill with tears when she speaks of her life’s work, or the moment – which never ­becomes stale – a child first hears the sounds of the world. Dornan was born Dimity Crist (pronounced as in “crisp”), the eldest of four girls and a boy born to Richard “Dick” Crist, a Shell sales rep, and his wife Marjorie, a full-time mother. Dick Crist was a World War II veteran and, before their marriage, Marjorie worked in US General Douglas MacArthur’s mapping department.

The Crists were of German descent (the name was spelt “Christ” but along the way the “h” disappeared) and were pioneers of the Toowoomba region. Dick’s mother, Alice Guerin, was of Irish origin. Alice died before Dimity was born but she was always intrigued by the mystery of her grandmother’s portrait, and by the fact that she was a ­writer. But it was her grandmother’s work as a teacher that lit up her impressionable granddaughter. “She came from Ireland with her parents in the early vanguard of teachers who were meant to upgrade the quality of education in Queensland … she travelled with her father to different state schools, eventually became a pupil teacher and then a teacher herself at a very young age.”

Dornan’s parents believed in the value of education, too. The family lived on a large block at Corinda in Brisbane’s southwest, and Dornan and her sisters attended Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Convent there. From an early age, Dornan knew she wanted some kind of career that involved helping people. The family knew a professor of psychology from UQ who lived nearby, who told her about a new speech pathology course. Dornan would become one of the first graduates in speech therapy at UQ.

Dr Dimity DormanDr Dimity Dornan of the Hear and Say Centre with Edward Mewing (2)

Her first jobs involved working with patients with head injuries. “It was wonderful work, but then I got the opportunity to work with children with hearing loss. I said to my prospective employer, ‘but I don’t know anything about hearing loss!’ And she said something that changed my life, something I like to pass on to other people. She said: ‘No, but you have the ability to find out’. So I’ve been finding out ever since – I’ve become a lifelong learner and that’s what I’ve been up to. People think they’ve got their qualifications, and then they sit back, but I’ll tell you what, life’s not like that.”

Which is why, besides her work as Hear and Say’s executive director, the fundraising and the meet-and-greets she ceaselessly undertakes every day, Dornan is ­increasingly absorbed in the area of bionics, founding ­Bionics Queensland and the Human Bionics ­Interface, an Australian research collaboration project to grow the ­bionics ­industry. She has also ­secured a manufacturer for a cutting-edge invention, a hearing aid that allows people to hear in noisy restaurants.
This is a woman who is constantly learning.

As if her days aren’t busy enough, there are now four grandchildren she enjoys with her husband whom she married in 1967. The couple has two children – Brisbane-based Melissa, 49, who runs a business helping mothers get over traumatic births, and Melbourne-based Roderick, 47, known as Rod, who works in IT for IBM.

“I came late to my career,” Dornan says. “I was always a speech pathologist but I didn’t start doing Hear and Say until my own kids were in uni, so I’m sort of a late starter, if you like, in that area.” She began working with deaf children when she had to learn sign language to work with hearing-impaired children at Zillmere North Special Education Unit. She became frustrated that parents weren’t involved in reinforcing their children’s learning, and eventually found her way to the Shepherd Centre in Sydney, which in turn led to a Churchill Fellowship to Canada to study AVT.

Research shows that the critical brain period for learning to speak is within the first three years of life, therefore early diagnosis is essential. Once a baby or child has been fitted with a cochlear implant, AVT successfully develops the listening and spoken language of kids with hearing loss by stimulating auditory brain development. The input of parents is critical to reinforce learning.
When Dornan speaks of giving the gift of sound, her eyes fill. “I feel very strongly that I have a purpose in life,” she says.

Dornan mentions the Future Hear Project, which she is working on with Queensland University of Technology, which aims to build ears for children born without them. It involves the 3D printing of a prosthetic ear and a bio­degradable scaffold built from a child’s cartilage and skin cells that will allow an ear to grow. It’s nothing short of ­miraculous. It’s also nothing short of all the little miracles ­Dornan has guided along the way, from teaching a child to distinguish an “f” sound from an “s” sound, to getting ­citizens to part with their money to help a deaf child. Do we care if Dr Dimity Dornan is classified as a senior, junior or middle-aged Australian? My guess is we care more that people like her keep doing what they’re doing, while the rest of us keep being grateful.

Sounds of hope: the story of the cochlear implant

ABC Local Radio with Rebecca Levingston

Have you ever seen one of those videos where a child is fitted with a hearing aid and they hear their parents voice for the first time? Their little face lights up and the parents tear up. It's the magic of a bionic ear that changes lives. Wally Lewis remembers the moment that happened to him and his daughter, but the woman responsible for that magic is Dr Dimity Dornan. Dimity is the founder of the Hear and Say Centre and this year marks 25 years of her transforming lives. Dimity and Wally chat with Rebecca Levingston.

This link will go to the page where you can listen.

Duration: 20min 50sec Download MP3 9.54MB Broadcast: Sat 2 Dec 2017

Grace's gaze opens up world

Dec 2017 Bundaberg News Mail

Grace Lukan

 Grace Lukan and her mum Liz thank Queensland's Hear and Say Centre for improving her life immeasurably

Little Grace Lukan will one day be able to advocate for herself thanks to Queensland's Hear and Say Centre. Through Grace's parents, Dan and Lucy Lukan's words, this heart-warming story shares just how important even the most limited communication can make to a child and a family.
Dan Lukan said when Grace was born, she was like any other child; her cerebral palsy came later.

"Grace lost her hearing, her sight and her teeth and she's got no head or body control,” Mr Lukan said. "Her type of cerebral palsy means she can't communicate with the outside world. She wants to, and she can understand, but up to now she hasn't been able to communicate back.”

The years of early intervention and hard work has paid off. Grace, 6, is now able to interact, express herself, and over time, will learn to advocate for herself. For her parents, it was a dream come true when Grace learnt to communicate through eye gaze software and her cochlear implant, thanks to the work from the Hear and Say Centre. They are just one of many families who rely on the support and advocacy for a child born with hearing loss.

Cochlear implants the best choice for Harper Rollinson

Dec 2017 Illawarra Mercury

Harper Rollinson

Three-year-old Bulli girl Harper whose face (inset) said it all when her cochlear implants were turned on

Luke and Katie Rollinson had no choice but to start their baby daughter Harper on chemotherapy at just 12 days old to treat aggressive eye cancer. It saved Harper’s life, however three years on the little girl lives with some of the side effects of the cancer treatment – the most serious being severe to profound hearing loss. So recently the Bulli couple was faced with another heartbreaking choice – should she continue with hearing aids or should she undergo cochlear implant surgery.

Their decision to do the latter was validated – when Harper’s face lit up with joy and astonishment when the bilateral implants were switched on. ‘’We didn’t have to make a decision with the chemo – it was the only option – so this was harder in a way,’’ Mr Rollinson said. ‘’Because when you have a cochlear implant you can’t reverse it, so it’s a big decision to make for a three-year-old little girl.
‘But while her hearing aids were giving her the volume, they weren’t giving her the clarity she needed. And while her speech was improving with therapy from The Shepherd Centre, it was behind that of other three-year-olds and that gap would only grow. So we decided to go ahead and she had the five-hour long surgery at Prince of Wales Hospital.

The couple knew there was every chance Harper would develop retinoblastoma, after genetic testing in utero revealed she had the RB1 gene. Mr Rollinson carries the gene, and had his right eye removed due to a tumour at 18 months old, and replaced with a glass eye. The couple’s first-born, son Eli, was tested when he was six months old and a small tumour was discovered on his retina, which has been successfully treated with laser and cryotherapy. But Harper’s tumour required stronger treatment, and while prognosis is positive, it’s been a rough ride. ‘’She started chemo at just 12 days, and had six rounds over the next six months,’’ Mr Rollinson said. ‘’The treatment was successful but both her and Eli have to be examined under anaesthetic every 12 weeks – up until they’re about six or seven. Eli’s vision is not affected at all but we’ve been told Harper will only have peripheral vision in her right eye. But it’s absolutely inspirational to see how resilient she has been and it amazes me – she’s such a strong individual with a heart of gold.’’

Harper & parents

 

Harper, pictured with parents Luke and Katie, is getting used to the implants.

Harper Rollinson

 

With her parents and brother Eli, 4

The Shepherd Centre spokeswoman Jo Wallace said chemo-induced hearing loss was relatively common for children. ‘’A number of children come through our services undergoing treatment for cancer,’’ she said. ‘’I really feel for them, as going through cancer is big enough and they then have to deal with the aftermath of treatment, such as hearing loss.’’ Ms Wallace said early intervention was key for kids with hearing loss. ‘’Giving children access to sound as soon as possible is essential to their development,’’ she said. ‘’If that is via implants, we help the whole family through the process, and offer ongoing support, therapy and mapping services.’’

Mr. Rollinson praised the centre, and Australian Hearing, for their support. The Rollinsons’ have also helped raised awareness and funding for the many other organisations which have helped them with their journey – including the Children’s Cancer Institute and Camp Quality.

Bionics advocate claims Queensland Senior of the Year

Nov 2017 The Gladstone Observer

INSPIRATIONAL. Definition: Making you feel full of hope or encouraged.

That's exactly what each and every nominee made you feel at the 2018 Queensland Australian of the Year ceremony held in Brisbane's grand Old Museum Building. In particular, Seniors News was there to report on the Senior of the Year category. The four nominees came from areas ranging from science to humanity, but they all shared an overwhelming desire to make people's everyday life better. These people did not need awards, notoriety or headlines, but gained satisfaction from bettering the lives of their fellow human beings.

Dr Dimity Dornan AO claimed the Queensland Australian Senior of the Year award for her work helping deaf children learn to listen and speak. She founded the Hear and Say Centres more than 25 years ago and has since championed the advancement of bionics, including extraordinary creations such as bionic eyes, limbs, nerves and more. Dr Dornan said the Hear and Say Centre for children who are deaf/hearing impaired and their families was born on July 6, 1992. She explained the impetus came after a private group of ear, nose and throat surgeons, and a group of audiologists wanted to start a cochlear implant program in Brisbane and she was asked to join with them to take care of pre-implant preparation and post-implant habilitation. In her own words, Dr Dornan wrote: "It was about this time, the point of no return, when I chanced upon my future motivating words, those of pioneer aviator Amelia Earhardt: 'Courage is the price that life extracts for granting peace’. "I took courage and set up a charity board consisting of about twenty representatives including hearing professionals, business, finance, education and medical personnel."

Dr Dornan has gone on to establish Hear and Say WorldWide, to expand the opportunities for deaf children in developing countries as well as several national and global research collaborations. As a past chair and co-founder of First Voice, she has played a significant role in raising the global profile of hearing health. Recognised internationally for her work, Dr Dornan is now building Human Bionics Interface, a global network of bionics thought leaders, researchers, clinicians, businesses, start-ups and investors to accelerate the delivery of bionic solutions that will address previously untreatable medical conditions.

 

Nurse's hearing loss solved by hi-tech smartphone-linked implant

Nov 2017 stuff.co.nz

Being close to her family is what matters most to Sarah Krammer. The sound of her daughter's voice over FaceTime and the crack of leather on willow at her son's cricket matches are what she desperately wanted to hear and couldn't, until now. The 51-year-old Lower Hutt nurse's hearing had been getting progressively worse since her 20s but a new hearing device that links up to her smartphone will hopefully make her life just a little bit easier.

Sarah KrammerSarah KrammerCochlear implants have been available for more than 20 years. However, the latest development in the technology is the Nucleus 7 sound processor which can stream sound directly from an Apple device such as an iPhone or iPad via a special app. The user's processor can connect directly with the device when taking calls or using services such as Facetime or Skype. The Nucleus 7 can also be used to listen to music, watch videos and play games.

She is already noticing improvements in her hearing. "I had no idea my car beeped when it was in reverse."  She has owned the car for five years. Southern Cochlear Implant Programme audiologist Hatten Howard said Krammer was one of the first patients in the programme to get the Nucleus 7. He said the main advantage of the new technology was the ability to adjust and monitor the implant and processor from a mobile device such as a phone. The mobile device replaced the need to carry a separate remote control as used in previous versions of the Nucleus.

"It's a matter of convenience. A lot of people are put off by having to carry another gadget. It allows a listener to change settings in more challenging scenarios."
Although the implant and processor were still being fine-tuned to her needs, Krammer had been impressed by the improvement it had made. She had already tested it out by talking to her daughter, Rosina, who lives in Melbourne, on Facetime. "It's amazing to be able to talk to her. It's been quite overwhelming. She had also been able to approach her work with much more confidence.  "I was a good nurse before, but with this, I'll be invincible!"

 

Kiwi schoolgirl's creative hearing loss ideas win her a trip to Austria

Nov 2017 New Zealand Herald

An Auckland schoolgirl is over the moon after winning a trip to Austria with her ideas to help people affected by hearing loss. Olivia Strang, 8, will join six children from other countries next year in Innsbruck, Austria, at the headquarters of MED-EL, a leading provider of hearing implant systems.

The Wai o Taiki Bay local had bilateral cochlear implants after completely losing her hearing when she was about 18-months-old. Her submission for MED-EL's Ears for Ideas competition was one of seven winning entries worldwide. The competition challenged children aged 6 to 15 to create a piece of artwork showing a creation to improve life for people living with hearing loss.
Olivia's entry had four ideas, including a hat with a solar panel to charge her processors. Another invention included a gadget to connect her implants to the smoke alarms in her home, when she removed her processors at night. Olivia said she was "really, really excited" about the win. The family had helped her brainstorm, she said, and she had wanted to come up with ideas to help people with hearing difficulties in instances like a house fire. "Because what if there's a fire, then how would you wake up, or how would you wake to an alarm in the morning?” Olivia's father Richard Strang said a house fire had stressed his daughter in years gone by.

For Strang, finding out his daughter was one of the competition winners was a proud moment.
The 8-year-old was still catching up from two years without hearing as a baby but he her father described her as "relentlessly positive”. "She entered the submission months and months ago so we had been trying to downplay it. But she kept asking about it.” Strang said he or his wife Alice would head along on the trip at the beginning of April next year. The winners would have the opportunity to see how MED-El's inventors produced the company's gadgets at the Austrian headquarters. They would also get the chance to learn about the science of hearing loss. "It'll certainly be a great adventure and i think she's old enough to really learn from it," Strang said.

 

'It's your first little baby and you want it to be perfect': Mother opens up on heartbreak of her child's hearing loss through genetic mutation

Nov 2017 Daily Mail Australia

The mother of a child born with significant hearing loss in both ears due to a genetic disorder has revealed how therapy and surgery have transformed her daughter's life.
Mel, of Gymea, is mum to Charlie, a bright, bubbly three-year-old who was born with profound hearing loss.

CharlieCharlie and MelTests just days after baby Charlie was born revealed she was deaf. Follow-up testing at Sydney's Children's Hospital confirmed Charlie was hearing impaired. 'The day we were told Charlie was deaf, our whole world was turned upside down. We had no knowledge or experience of deafness but we knew instantly that will would have a huge impact on our lives,' Mel said. 'It was so shocking and devastating. We didn't know anyone who had been through this. It was all very different to anything we'd experienced.' 

Mel and her partner Ben, are carriers of the Connexin 26 gene, a recessive gene which is the most common cause hearing impairment. 'My husband and I are both carry the gene but because we both have the good copy as well, the good always over-rides the bad copies, which is why our hearing is fine. 'Charlie was born with both our faulty copies.' 

Within weeks of Charlie's diagnosis she was given her first set of hearing aids, and at three months old she started audio verbal therapy to help teach her to listen and speak at the Shepherd Centre in Newtown. Despite weekly sessions, the family realised Charlie wasn't doing as well as she could have been and a decision was made for her to have the first of her two cochlear implant surgeries. Her first surgery was at 16 months, and her last just after she turned three.

Though Charlie continues to have regular therapy, her mum Mel said her progress has been nothing short of  'astounding'
'It's been such a long journey and finally it's all coming together and we are seeing really great progress. Charlie, who will turn four this December, is now a confident girl 'that will just walk into a room and want to make friends’ 'Whereas before she was a little bit unsure and would stand back, now she just sort of runs to join in and it's amazing to see.'

CharlieNow Charlie will bring a little hope to others who may be affected by hearing loss as the new face for the Shepherd's Centre 2017 Christmas Appeal. 'They do that for all the families,' she said.
'You have your little baby and you just want them to be perfectly healthy so when something happens its quite unknown and scary.'

The centre is aiming to raise $150,000 to provide support services for families with deaf or hearing impaired children. While the Shepherd Centre is NSW-based, funding will help children who are deaf and hearing-impaired develop spoken language skills in ACT and Tasmania. 'There are so many ups and downs with the journey, and they've always been there for us,' Mel said of the centre's work The charity, which was founded in 1970, has since helped more than 2000 children.

Jim Hungerford, CEO of The Shepherd Centre said many people don't realise it costs nearly $20,000 per child a year to provide services. 'Sadly, we know that currently only 50 per cent of Australian children with hearing loss are being supported by specialised early intervention services.
'Every child deserves the chance to reach their full potential regardless of disability.'

 

Events Coming Up

22 Apr 2018;
10:30AM - 02:00PM
Illawarra Cochlear Implant Support Group
03 May 2018;
10:30AM - 12:00PM
Thursday Social Gatherings
20 May 2018;
11:00AM - 03:00PM
Sunday BBQ - May

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