May 2017 Townsville Bulletin

Two-year-old Hamish Budden gave his mum a gift more precious than gold when he said “I love you” clearly for the first time. And while those three words ring sweet with all parents, it was made all the more special because Hamish was born deaf. Hamish is one of 19 children and 10 adults who have been surgically fitted with a cochlear implant at The Townsville Hospital since the service first started two years ago, an experience that his mum Lorna described as “wonderful”. “The day Hamish went in for surgery was scary; it was a big change,” she said. “When he had the surgery done 12 months ago all he could say was ‘ah’. Now he sings the ABC song and says ‘I love you’; his receptive language is above average and his expressive language is almost where it needs to be. “Our speech therapist has said by the time he’s in kindy there will be no signs at all that he is deaf.”

Lorna said she would always remember when her family first realised the device was making a difference. “We were playing in the backyard when a cockatoo squawked and flew overhead,” she said. “Hamish looked up from where he was playing to look for the bird. I just felt like cheering; he was discovering this whole new dimension to the world.”

Paediatric audiologist Sreedevi Aithal said the past two years of the service running had been extremely rewarding. “It’s very fulfilling being able to provide a service to people that makes such a profound impact on their lives, as well as their loved ones’ lives. The service is going extremely well; we have seen patients from all age groups and all of them are on target with their hearing development.”

Lorna said she was grateful for the help she had received from the unit after Hamish’s hearing issue was picked up during routine newborn hearing screening. “It was initially devastating finding out that Hamish was deaf because of the extra challenges we knew he’d have to face in life,” she said. “However, because it was picked up so early through the newborn screening he had hearing aids fitted at nine weeks old and we were able to ensure he had access to both verbal and visual language straight away.”