New articles are published every month under the headings below.

Why the Shepherd Centre and IMB Bank is music to Matilda's ears

Feb 2018 Illawarra Mercury

When Matilda Linturn, 1, was born a test immediately showed she was not able to hear as well as other children. But not having complete hearing loss meant there was limited support available to help her integrate with other children and become ready for school. The Shepherd Centre is one not-for-profit organisation that has developed programs to help children such as Tilly. In 2017 it sought ways to do more of that. It succeeded when IMB Bank gave it enough funding to help 28 families like the Linturn’s in NSW.

Andrew and Jane Linturn expressed how grateful they were to find such support for their fourth child after being referred by Australian Hearing. “The Shepherd Centre has been an amazing blessing to our family,” Mrs Linturn said. “It was a traumatic time at the start to find out our baby had a hearing loss. To find such supportive and encouraging staff was just so reassuring. We can’t speak highly enough of the Shepherd Centre. We are so thankful.” Senior audiologist Shellie Lavery said without that funding IMB Bank’s community foundation is providing some children such as Tilly who would fall through the cracks. “At the Shepherd Centre we are a charity organisation. Even though we do obtain some support from the NDIS we still really do depend on support from others such as IMB Bank to allow us to run all the programs we have,” Ms Lavery said. “The programs aim to give children who have hearing loss or a hearing impairment a chance to reach their full potential. Children who do not receive such support may not.”

IMB Bank is presently helping prepare more than two dozen children such as Tilly to be able to attend a mainstream school and participate in classes with other children. The Halfway Hear program helps children with partial hearing loss (unilateral or mild bilateral) and may be ineligible for government support. The Shepherd Centre applied for IMB Bank funding last year to provide early intervention support programs to partially deaf children and their families.

Matilda LinternPhilanthropic help: Andrew, Matilda (Tilly) and Jane Linturn with Shepherd Centre audiologist Shellie Lavery.

Halfway Hear provides education, assessments, therapy and support through an online training program and face-to-face sessions. The first part of the program is called Talk Together. Families can access the online training modules at home and or come into the Shepherd Centre where they can be assessed and benefit from audiology and other services from the team working there. Matilda has done both.  

Children with more significant hearing loss are generally able to access more funded services than those with mild hearing loss. “Our aim is to enable the child to hear as best they can and increase their chance of integration. We want to offer the service to everyone,” Ms Lavery said. The whole program has been designed so it can be done online because the Shepherd Centre knows there are many children in regional and remote areas who may find it hard getting to one of its five centres in NSW. Mrs Linturn said the program was good for her and her husband as well.

Five families come to the Shepherd Centre in Wollongong for the program and they quickly met other parents of children with a hearing loss.  “That was really encouraging. You don’t feel so isolated,” she said. “Tilly immediately then joined playgroup and music time which she absolutely loves. She always gets really involved in music. We bought her some instruments for Christmas because that is something she is passionate about. She just loves coming here. The girls are so lovely. The big thing you are concerned about when you have a child with unilateral hearing loss is how is it going to affect their life. It can effect their speech. And of course you don’t want your child to be bullied at school which can happen. So having that early intervention and the ability to develop her speech early we hope she will be able to go to school and just be like everybody else. That is our goal.”

Tilly is already starting to say her first words. The first one was “dad”.

Deaf Coast woman can't be stopped

Feb 2018 Sunshine Coast Daily

Doctors said Erin Turner would never walk or talk when she was born, but the Coast woman now prides herself on a healthy, active lifestyle and teaches sign language. The 28-year-old had to be resuscitated at birth and was born with several health problems. At 16 months old she was diagnosed as profoundly deaf. Ms Turner also suffers from ataxic cerebral palsy. Every day Ms Turner uses Auslan sign language to communicate with people, but had to teach herself to lip read for those who don't use it. "Group situations are particularly hard as it's impossible to follow who is actually talking,” Ms Turner said. "The worst and cruellest thing is when people say things like 'it's not important' or 'it doesn't matter'.

Erin TurnerErin Turner is deaf and suffers from cerebral palsy, but living with disability won't stop the 28-year-old from living her best life

"I received a cochlear implant in 2011, and many people think I can hear well because of it. I can't - it mainly gives me access to environmental sounds. I still have absolutely no idea of which direction sounds come from.” Despite this, Ms Turner keeps herself busy working three part-time jobs and staying active. "It's really important for me to maintain fitness and muscle tone because this helps control and minimise how my cerebral palsy affects me,” she said. "I've been a disability support worker for over seven years, and have just started a couple of other totally different jobs, including teaching Auslan to a community class. "Sometimes people try to stop me doing things or think that I can't do things, but I am pretty stubborn and won't let people put me down because of my disabilities.”

Backpacker's $15,000 hearing aids stolen

Feb 2018 Otago Daily Times

A deaf backpacker's cochlear implant and hearing aids, worth about $15,000, have been stolen from the Hot and Cold Pools near Rotorua. Julia Ofele, a 23-year-old German futsal player, took off her devices to go swimming but the bag they were in was stolen about 8.30pm on February 7.
She was left with nothing but the bikini she was wearing, her towel and her GoPro, which had fallen out of her bag. "We had no keys, no money, no passport. Nothing," she said. The AA was called so Ofele and her friend could gain access to their car and get their clothes. The police were called and have GoPro footage of the thief and the number plate of his getaway car.

Julia OfeleOfele was born deaf and has been travelling in New Zealand since August.

Since arriving in New Zealand she has helped at a futsal championships in Wellington, has met and stayed with other deaf people, made repeat visits to Rotorua, walked the Tongariro Crossing and visited Abel Tasman National Park. "The nature is very beautiful in New Zealand and most people are very friendly," she said. "New Zealanders are more accepting of people who are different."

But this is the second time her belongings have been taken. With her hearing devices stolen Ofele cannot hear. The friend she was travelling with is not deaf and does not know sign language, so the pair had to write notes. "It was hard to communicate," she said. "It was fine for me because I was born deaf and I use sign language. Sign language is a beautiful language.” After eight days without sound she visited the Hearing House in Auckland, a charity for deaf children and adults with cochlear implants and hearing aids. She was able to borrow a cochlear implant until replacement devices can be arranged. Ofele has health insurance and is waiting to learn whether it covers her cochlear implant. "If they pay that's good, but if not ..."

Rotorua police area prevention manager Brendon Keenan said police regularly got reports of thefts from Hot and Cold and other tourist locations, particularly ones that were isolated. "Tourists may not know the dangers of a popular hotspot.” Keenan said the tourists got clear images of the licence plates in their GoPro footage of Ofele's theft. "We are still making inquiries and following up leads with some strong suspects."

How an iPhone connection is helping deaf people stream music and videos straight to their brain

Feb 2018 Herald Sun

The Aussie invention that has brought the magic of sound to more than 10,000 deaf Australians can now connect to an iPhone and stream sound directly to the brain. The seventh version of the cochlear implant* connects directly to the Apple iPhone via Bluetooth allowing users to hear music and Youtube videos and other apps directly from the phone for the first time. The user can also use an app to adjust the hearing device to block out background noise in a restaurant and allow them to focus on the voices of people at their table.

Lily KingLily King has her cochlear implant adjusted by her mum Sandra

Associate Professor Robert Briggs, the clinical director of the Eye and Ear Hospital, said the latest upgrade would allow people with a hearing impairment to use their iPhone like a microphone. “You can put your phone directly in front of someone and stream their voice directly to your implant,” he said.

Jamie Lee Lewis, daughter of rugby league legend Wally Lewis, is just one of many excited customers waiting for the cochlear implant to be upgraded as she starts her new career as an apprentice carpenter. Ms Lewis was diagnosed as being deaf as a child and had her first cochlear implant at four and another when she turned 16. I found out about the new one — it would be awesome that you wouldn’t need a cord to connect it to the phone,” she said.Jamie Lewis

The seventh version of the cochlear sound processor Nucleus 7, which is smaller and lighter and with a battery that lasts 50 per cent longer, will be on sale in Australia next month.

Jamie Lee Lewis with her father Wally Lewis who is a Queensland Rugby League legend

Hearing loss surgery sounds great for 16 children from Yarrabah

Jan 2018 Cairns Post

The sounds of their tropical home will become much clearer for 16 children from Yarrabah who have gone under the knife to improve their hearing. Several health organisations united to assist the indigenous children with day surgery in Cairns under the federally funded Eye and Ear Surgical Support Services program. Children ranging from 2-15 years of age were treated for a series of hearing impairments, including perforated eardrums and middle-ear infections.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children experience some of the highest levels of ear disease and hearing loss in the world. Rates are up to 10 times more than those for non-indigenous Australians. Gurriny Yealamucka Health Service Aboriginal Corporation nurse Dannielle Gillespie said, due to Yarrabah’s relatively remote location, it was difficult for parents to get their children to doctors. She said an initial list of 200 children needing hearing loss surgery had to be whittled down to the list treated at Cairns Day Surgery.

Karen Leeman Registered Nurse Karen Leeman prepares 7 year old Dallas Sands for surgery on a perforated eardrum.

“Hearing loss in Yarrabah is right across all kids,” she said. “Basically, if the perforations in the ear are not fixed, then that has a future roll-on effect with their speech, their education, their learning abilities – even their social skills, it starts affecting that, too.” Yarrabah mum Zoe-Ann Sands’ daughter Dallas, 7, had surgery yesterday. Ms Sands said she was thankful her daughter would finally have better hearing. Funding for the surgery was provided to health advocacy group CheckUP by the Commonwealth Government.

Horsley boy Koby Butterfield ready for Kindy thanks to The Shepherd Centre

Jan 2018 Illawarra Mercury

Bedtime stories were once a struggle for Horsley mum Ashleigh Butterfield, with her little boy Koby seemingly unwilling to lie still and listen. It wasn’t until Koby was four, that she discovered that he had never been able to properly hear those stories due to bilateral hearing loss. Now fitted with a cochlear implant in his left ear – and a hearing aid in his right – he’s more than ready to listen and to learn when he starts ‘big school’.

The five-year-old is one of 43 deaf or hearing impaired children who will join their hearing peers in mainstream Kindergarten classrooms this year thanks to the support of The Shepherd Centre.
For Mrs. Butterfield, and husband Daniel, the Wollongong centre has been their “lifeline” since Koby’s diagnosis. “Without The Shepherd Centre, we would have no idea what to do next,” she says. “They have been an incredible help in understanding Koby’s diagnosis and how we help him grow and reach his full potential.”

Mrs. Butterfield said Koby’s diagnosis had come as a complete shock, with no family history of hearing impairment. ‘’Koby had had grommets inserted as it was thought he had middle ear problems, but we didn’t know the extent of his hearing loss until he was diagnosed last February,’’ Mrs. Butterfield said. “It had affected his behaviour and his willingness to learn – I couldn’t even read a book to him at night.

Koby Butterfield Now his interest in reading is growing and he’s so excited about starting school – he put on his uniform this week and wouldn’t even take it off when we went shopping.’’

Koby will continue to work hard on his growing speech and language skills with The Shepherd Centre, while attending mainstream classes at Hayes Park Public School with the assistance of an itinerant teacher.

Centre CEO Dr Jim Hungerford said the first day of school was a ‘’special milestone’’ for children who were deaf or hearing impaired. “For many of these families, they’ve really been preparing for the first day of school for almost their entire lives,’’ he said. “The majority were diagnosed with hearing loss shortly after birth, and they’ve since received regular speech and language therapy from us –  some with help from hearing devices such as cochlear implants –  since they were just a few months old.’’

How gaming is bringing new sounds to new ears

Jan 2018 Telstra Exchange

There’s a reason why the Remarkable Accelerator has such a bold name. In part it’s the remarkable ideas behind each of the program’s tech4good startups. But mostly, it’s the remarkable people making these ideas a reality. With applications closing soon for the 2018 program, we want to share these Remarkable Stories. This is Elliot’s - “I’ve never seen being deaf as a bad thing.”
Elliot Miller explains: “It really taught me to view, articulate and interact with the world in a different, open-minded and often unique way.” He’s right. The 30-year-old Brisbanite has unique view of the world. Growing up deaf in a hearing world, also meant he’s had a unique experience of it. It was one particular unique experience in 2013 that inspired an idea which would set his life in a new direction.

“I’ll always remember the day I first went running after I received a cochlear implant,” Elliot said. “I could hear a jingling noise. When I stopped running to focus on this unfamiliar sound, the jingling also stopped. I wasn’t sure what it was and kept wondering what it could be. It wasn’t until I got home that I realised the noise was coming from the coins in my pocket.”

At two, Elliot was diagnosed with severe hearing loss in his right ear and profound loss in his left. Twenty-four years later he received a life-changing cochlear implant. However this ‘fix’ wasn’t as simple as ‘switching on the sound’. In fact, learning to understand new sounds has been one of the biggest challenges Elliot has ever faced. But this experience led him to combine his skills in graphic design and game design to create Games 4 Hearoes, which uses gamification to help people with hearing impairments transform the way they hear.

Games 4 Hearoes“Games 4 Hearoes is a digital auditory training platform to help track, adapt and empower those with hearing loss, specifically those with a cochlear implant, learn new sounds,” Elliot said.

“When someone receives a cochlear implant it’s a common misconception that they will automatically gain normal hearing. However it’s quite a different experience for everyone who goes through the journey.” After someone receives a cochlear implant, what they mostly hear is almost like vibration feedback while the brain tries to identify the pitch and tone of the sound. Over time it steadies to ‘white noise’ until their brain is able to identify what the auditory feedback is and understand it. Recipients often need to relearn or learn how to hear – from environmental sounds through to understanding vocabulary. “I hadn’t been prepared for how much work was needed in the rehabilitation process,” Elliot explained. “In theory, the cochlear speech processor is a more powerful, sharper device compared to the hearing aid that I was used to. Although I am able to hear more of the world around me, especially the soft or high pitched sounds which I had never heard before, it took a lot of practice and stamina to make sense of it all.”

So he set himself on a new path to use technology to make this process quicker, easier – and even fun. And it’s through serious games – computer games with a purpose to train, rather than simply entertain us. But as Elliot explains, serious games can do both. “Games 4 Hearoes has a range of modules, starting with environmental sounds progressing to understanding sentences and dialogue,” Elliot said. “In each module, there is a library of gamified activities, which have been designed for everyone, from children to adults, to create an entertaining and immersive experience, rewarding participants as they progress.”

Games 4 HearoesIn developing Games 4 Hearoes, Elliot has drawn on his own experiences, as well as others.

“Even the small things in life, from the fridge alarm beeping to taps dripping – which had never been noticeable before a cochlear implant – can be easy to misunderstand in our noisy world,” Elliot said. “Using real life experiences and scenarios has helped the development of Games 4 Hearoes. Everyone we speak to brings new insights and ideas.”

Games 4 Hearoes was one of eight social change businesses using technology to change the lives people with disabilities, that took part in the 2017 Remarkable Accelerator. A partnership between the Telstra Foundation and Cerebral Palsy Alliance, the 16-week program has been tailored for early stage startups looking to build sustainable enterprises that have a big social impact. It does so by connecting them with the tools, skills and networks they need to succeed.
Elliot credits the program with helping him take the next step in making his niggling, ‘jiggling’ idea, a reality.

Elliot Miller“We’re continuing to develop Games 4 Hearoes and to date we’ve had incredible feedback, not only from those with hearing impairments, but also audiologists who have validated what we’re trying to do,” Elliot said. “We’re currently looking for people who have had cochlear implants, as well as audiologists to join us on our journey. Through the Remarkable program, I’ve gained the skills to now take the next step in launching this as a business.”

Elliot is passionate about the potential of technology to break down barriers for people with a whole range of disabilities – but especially for the hearing impaired. “As hearing aid hardware has moved from analogue to digital – the possibilities of new technology are almost endless,” he said. “Addressing an issue that is so close to my heart with something I experience every day, is essentially how this all started.”

Hearing loss didn't stop Kyle Cloete following his passion for making films

Dec 2017

Despite experiencing hearing loss a child, 16-year-old Kyle Cloete is a passionate film-maker, and has already won awards for his short films. He shares his story as part of Disability Pride week, to inspire other young people living with disability. I have two worlds – the hearing side and the deaf side. When I was born, my mum knew something was wrong but the doctor repeatedly assured her "Oh no, your baby is fine, don't worry about it”. I wasn't fine. After we moved to New Zealand, doctors found a tumour in my right ear. I needed surgery, and subsequently I was left with one completely deaf ear and moderate hearing loss in the other. I am forever in my parents' debt. They have always supported me and believed that I can achieve whatever I want to do.
Kyle Cloete says if you believe in yourself, you might end up doing what you love for the rest of your life.

Kyle CloeteAs a child, mum wanted to expose me to as many different languages as possible, both visual and oral. My mother is deaf herself so she communicated with me using sign language. My first signs at 6 months were mummy, moon and light. Sign language is so visual, which is why I also love comic books. I was also exposed to the oral world through music, and at seven I was fitted with a cochlear implant which gave me more access to the hearing world.

School was sometimes challenging, as I would miss out on the teacher's instructions, but otherwise I was much the same as other students. I feel lucky to live in New Zealand -compared with other countries in the world, it's very diverse and I have never felt that people judged me because of my disability. Sign language became an official language in New Zealand in 2006, and as more people learn it, our society becomes more inclusive, which is awesome. The deaf community is like a family. If you ever go to a deaf club, you'll be amazed at how quickly people can pick up signs because it is visual language.

I want to show people my world, and share other people's stories too. I think that's why I am so passionate about directing and screenwriting. I know it will be a long road, but I'll do whatever it takes to get there because that's all I want to do. My all-time favourite movie is an old film The Good, The Bad and The Ugly - I just love how Blondie is a silent character. I may be hard of hearing, but I never saw that as an excuse not to make films. You can't let your disability define who you are. You need to believe in yourself when nobody else believes in you. You need to imagine yourself in the future going "hey, I want that". The next thing you know, you might be doing what you love for the rest of your life too.

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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Here is a link to Deafblindness support and information. They are based in Western Australia and supported by Senses Australia.

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