Sept 2019 New Zealand Herald

A Rotorua family are encouraging the community to get loud with their clothes and fashion next week to help raise funds for charities close to their hearts. Loud Shirt Day is an annual event that raises money for paediatric programmes at the Hearing House and the Southern Cochlear Implant Programme. These two charities are dedicated to helping children who are deaf and receive cochlear implants and/or hearing aids and engage in services that help them learn to listen and speak.

Rotorua's Te Waiwaha Prangnell, 2, has profound hearing loss in both ears and has bilateral cochlear implants.Her mother, Te Ao Prangnell, says the problem was picked up as part of the newborn hearing screening programme. She says a few days after Te Waiwaha was born someone from the programme came to do a newborn hearing test at their home and Te Waiwaha failed the test. They believed it could have been a technical fault, so they tested Te Waiwaha again but it was the same result. A visit to the audiology department at the hospital confirmed she was profoundly deaf.

Te Ao says the news grieved her and husband Ben. "We don't have it running in either of our families, and we have two older daughters who both have their hearing."Te Ao says Te Waiwaha was fitted with hearing aids but they did not do much for her, so she went through more testing to see if she could get the bilateral cochlear implants. "There was a lot of testing and meeting with support groups."

Te Waiwaha was accepted for bilateral cochlear implants and had surgery in September 2017, aged 6 months.

Te Waiwaha

Te Ao says with the implants Te Waiwaha can actually hear in both ears now, and yesterday was the two-year anniversary since she switched on the implants. "She is doing well right now. She's talking, listening and a happy child. She loves music, along with her big sisters, and she loves to dance too."

Every fortnight they have an auditory-verbal therapy session as part of the Hearing House Outreach Programme, either through Skype or in Hamilton, she says. The sessions are more for herself and her husband, she says, to learn more about how to help Te Waiwaha listen.

Te Ao says a benefit of these includes knowing that Te Waiwaha is getting the right support from them. She says there is quite a big number of children in Rotorua who are profoundly deaf and who have cochlear implants, with five girls around Te Waiwaha's age in their support group.

Te Waiwaha's parents do not want her thinking she is different from others, Te Ao says.

"She just has a different way of hearing, other than that she's another happy child. The journey for us doesn't end once she has her implants, it continues right through her school life. We are both teachers and want to make sure she has the best education."

Te Ao says some families don't have the resources to help their child and that's where these charities step in. "That's the reason why we encourage people to support these charities."

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