New articles are published every month under the headings below.

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.'

 

Family’s joy as cochlear implants switched on

Nov 2017 Townsville Bulletin

A unique family has experienced the joy of hearing in a new way, after two of three siblings all suffering from hearing loss had cochlear implants switched on. Siblings Joe, 14, Etty, 10, and James McDonough, 8, all suffer from progressive hearing loss linked to a genetic disorder, and all underwent surgery in March to have their first cochlear implants inserted. After another surgery, Joe and Etty have just had their second cochlear implants turned on for the first time, allowing them to hear out of both ears. Etty and James said going through the process of getting their hearing back had been made easier by doing it together. “The last surgery I had, Joe was with me, and he was just making it a lot more comfortable for me,” she said. “I think it will be a lot easier at school now because I can hear my teacher and all my friends.”
Eight-year-old James said it was emotional seeing his sister cry with happiness when her second implant was switched on. “I was really happy for her,” he said. James still has enough hearing to only require one cochlear implant, but the possibility of requiring a second like his older siblings in the future is high. “I’m a bit nervous, but it’s in a few years’ time,” he said.
The Cairns family have travelled to Hear and Say Townsville almost 20 times in less than two years to give the three children the opportunity to hear like any other kids. Mother Kitty McDonough said while the travel was extensive, she was just thankful the children had the opportunity to hear again.

“You don’t even factor the inconvenience to your life because it’s all about the kids getting what they need to be able to fully function in society the way we all do,” she said.
The family found out two years ago that the three children had progressive hearing loss after one of Etty’s teachers suspected she may need her hearing tested. “It’s been a bit of a whirlwind 20 months, but we’re here now and we’re nearly at the end of this part,” she said. Father Terry McDonough said he was thankful for the knowledge his kids would be able to hear the outside world. “For so long they’ve been without, and to see that today is quite emotional,” he said.

“We’re very grateful to Hear and Say, and for our kids to be able to hear what normal kids hear all the time, it's very special.”


McDonough FamilyTerry, Joe, Etty, Kitty and James McDonough at Hear and Say Townsville.

Hear and Say audiologist Liza Bowen said “The McDonough kids passed newborn screening, they’re the kids that aren’t picked up early because their hearing loss occurred gradually from early childhood,” she said. Ms Bowen said cochlear implants would drastically improve the children’s long-term education and employment prospects, as well as improving their everyday lives and relationships. “At Hear and Say we like to get children optimally aided, or have the best hearing as early as possible, and work intensively with their speech, language and listening skills so they can do just what any other child can do,” she said. Ms Bowen also said the moment a child heard properly for the first time wasn’t just emotional for the family. “Switch-on days make my job, I love them,” she said. “I love being able to help kids and families, by providing sounds kids can reach their full speech and language potential. “And I think Etty’s giggle is adorable.”

Kitty said all the children were doing well academically which disguised the signs that something was wrong with their hearing. “It was a real eye opener for all of us, and a reminder for all families to seek specialist help if they suspect their child may be missing out on critical developmental milestones in particular hearing, listening and speaking,” she said.

All three children are continuing to receive listening and spoken language support from their home in Cairns via Hear and Say’s telepractice program.

 

Implant lets North Beach’s little Leo hear his mum

Oct 2017 Stirling Times

North Beach mother Natalie Ellis treats Telethon Speech and Hearing (TSH) like her family.
Especially since the staff of TSH gifted her deaf two-year-old son Leo with the ability to hear through a cochlear implant. Ms Ellis said she found out Leo was deaf when he was a year old but she and her husband took 10 months before making a decision. “My husband was very cautious as well, because it is such a big operation and a huge decision,” Ms Ellis said. “We just kind of needed the professionals to really walk us through the whole thing and tell us 20 times why and what was wrong with his hearing because we do not know anyone who is deaf. Someone telling us that we have got to put a thing in his ear… it is really confronting. The people at Telethon basically walked me through it all and for a long time, they were so helpful and got everyone involved, and we finally felt like they were right and we were comfortable that it would go ahead.”
Ms Ellis said it had been a confusing and emotional journey for her family. “In hindsight, we wish we had done it earlier. Ever since he got his cochlear implant, he has just come along in leaps and bounds. He can’t say things properly because he is still learning but he is hearing everything.
Because he has lost his profound hearing, his hearing aids were not really doing anything for him and he was struggling with his right ear; he would just kind of ignore us all the time.” Ms Ellis said she was confident Leo could catch up with his speech development in time for kindergarten. She said Telethon had been instrumental in getting Leo to hear properly and her family was in a fortunate position.

 

The face of happiness: Little girl, 5, with cochlear implants receives a doll with hearing aids - after spending years drawing them on her old toys

Oct 2017 Daily Mail Australia

A five-year-old girl who lost her hearing at the tender age of two has been gifted a doll who wears hearing aids, just like her. Abbi Keating, from New South Wales, Australia, baffled doctors when she lost her hearing, and stopped talking at the same time. Her mum, Amy, 31, was devastated, but quickly ensured her daughter was fitted with hearing aids and later underwent an operation to have a cochlear implant fitted - an electronic device that replaces the function of the ear. As she grew up, Abbi spent hours drawing hearing devices on to her existing dolls, longing for one who looked just like her.  After researching online, Amy finally found an affordable 'Just Like You Doll,' and designed the doll in the image of her daughter. She decided to film the moment Abbi opened her surprise doll - and the pair have been inseparable ever since. The heartwarming video shows the young girl let out a long squeal as she pulls out the first doll. 'What has it got?,' asks Amy. 'A cochlear hearing aid,' Abbi responds shyly, wearing a huge grin on her face.

 Abbi KeatingAbbi KeatingAbbi KeatingAmy, a full time mum of three, said: 'After Abbi's hearing aid and cochlear implant were fitted, I was desperate to buy Abbi a toy that had them too. 'When I found an affordable one online, I knew it would be too adorable not to film the moment on camera.  'Abbi has since been inseparable with her doll and we've now ordered another - the hearing aids even come off, just like hers do!'

 

Newcastle business Just Like You Dolls makes specialty toys with pretend medical devices to provide comfort to children with medical conditions

Oct 2017 Newcastle Herald

Bella ChislettHello dolly: Bella Chislett with her preferred doll Isabelle, who wears cochlear implants like her owner and was made by Bella's mum Jade, who runs niche business Just Like You Dolls. Picture: Marina Neil

BORN with congenital hearing loss, Bella Chislett was eight months old when she received her first cochlear implant, and had barely marked her first birthday when she got her second. “It made a big difference, the small things like being able to hear a bird singing in the trees and me speaking to her,” says mum Jade of her daughter, now five. “We did a lot of intensive therapy and now her speech is average with her hearing peers.” Also helping Bella along her path to greater resilience is her trusty doll Isabelle. Isabelle has cochlear implants like Bella and was the prototype that inspired Mrs Chislett’s expanding niche business, Just Like You Dolls.
“Bella has always loved her dolls and been a little mother hen and when she was three I was looking at her playing and thought ‘I’d like to give you a doll that’s just like you’, because she used to put her own cochlear implants on the doll,” says Mrs Chislett. So just before Christmas last year, she took a koala toy with cochlear implants gifted to Bella after her cochlear implant operation and took it apart. She removed the plastic implants, drilled holes into them, bought a new doll and used magnets to attach the implants. “When Bella opened the present on Christmas Day she just squealed  the first thing she said was ‘it has special ears just like me’.”
Mrs Chislett soon found herself making a doll with hearing aids for a girl in one of Bella’s therapy classes who had grown attached to a doll with aids she’d made for her second daughter, Evee.
 “When I gave it to this girl, just the look of pure joy on her face, and her mum later telling me how much she adored it, I knew I had to do something more,” she says. Spurred on by her hubby Josh, Mrs Chislett joined forces with his dad Michael to found Just For You Dolls. They source dolls from overseas then use a 3D printing machine to manufacture the medical device attachments, ranging from cochlear implants and hearing aids to glasses and a stoma and bag. Customers can choose from one of 10 dolls then add one device or more to suit their child. Prices range from $25 to $150.  Mrs Chislett sews on the devices to each doll, and uses magnets to attach others. 
 

Word of mouth is spreading. One of Bella’s support teachers has bought 15 dolls she says have made a “huge difference” in her classes.  Mrs Chislett’s business has had a positive impact in more ways than one for Bella. “She’s far more aware of other hearing loss types and disabilities, and she helps me mail out the dolls,” she says. “People are hesitant to ask Bella about her cochlears but now she takes her doll out and she gets comments on how her doll has beautiful hearing aids and it opens a conversation and people are more comfortable,” she says.

 

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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