Sept 2019 Stuff.co.nz
For seven-year-old Thomas Geater, hearing birds chirp, the sound of his own voice and his mum say 'I love you' was life-changing. And now he's helping others get that experience. Thomas, of Stratford, was born with auditory neuropathy, a type of hearing loss where his inner ear can still detect sound but has a problem sending it to the brain. When he was three he received two cochlear implants.
"When I first got my cochlear implant I was like 'wow'," Thomas said. "He said to me 'mummy, I didn't know birds talked'," his mum, Michelle Geater, said. On Friday, Thomas's school, St Joseph's in Stratford, will be holding a mufti day in support of a national fundraising event to help children just like him. Loud Shirt Day is when people are encouraged to wear their brightest, craziest shirt to raise money for The Hearing House and the Southern Cochlear Implant Programme, which support hearing-impaired children with hearing aids and cochlear implants.
In New Zealand, cochlear implants and the operation cost about $50,000. And every seven years the speech processors need to be replaced at a cost of $10,000.
For his seventh birthday in July, Thomas said he hosted a disco party at the Cardiff Hall in Stratford with colourful lights and lots of his friends. But instead of getting presents, he asked all of his friends to bring a donation for Loud Shirt Day instead. He managed to raise $117, and Michelle said she wasn't surprised when he came to her with the idea. "That's just Thomas," she said.
"Loud Shirt Day funding has helped us a lot personally as a family. It's paid for private speech therapy for Thomas, so the least we could do is get behind it. It gets awareness out in the community, and at the end of the day our children who have cochlear implants just want to be included."
She said St Josephs' School had helped Thomas be included in all school activities the moment he stepped through the school gates. "He started school when he was five and he's just come in leaps and bounds," Michelle said. "I don't think he would be at school if he didn't have cochlear implants. I can't even imagine where a deaf child would go to school in Taranaki.”