Govt urged to fund dual implants

KELSEY FLETCHER
Last updated 07:31 17/07/2013
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A Palmerston North family hope the Government will act on a proposal to fund dual cochlear implants for children with hearing difficulties.

Bilateral cochlear implant advocacy group 2ears2hear is meeting with the Ministry of Health tomorrow to suggest a funding trial that would help deaf children.

The Government subsidises one cochlear implant for eligible people, which costs between $45,000 and $55,000 each.

Moana Smith-Dunlop said a second cochlear implant would help 4-year-old daughter Te Maire. But the family would have to put about $32,000 on their mortgage.

"Te Maire is the first person in either of our families who is profoundly deaf," she said. "When she was born, we missed the newborn screening tests by two months, so we had no idea she was deaf at all."

Mrs Smith-Dunlop said Te Maire was about 11 months old when the family found out.

"My husband was calling out to me and she was looking at me - there was no recognition on her face she had heard him calling or anything," she said.

"We had been a little bit suspicious of her hearing before then but that was the lightbulb moment when we thought there is definitely something wrong here."

Te Maire went through six to eight months of audiology tests before she was found to have a genetic condition causing her to be profoundly deaf from birth, and was given a cochlear implant when she was 2 years old.

Mrs Smith-Dunlop said the cochlear implant was Te Maire's only shot at learning speech.

"She is able now to give the family two- and three-word sentences," she said. "She has just passed her two-year hearing birthday and she has the hearing age of a 3-year-old, so she is progressing slightly faster than her hearing age allows but that is with intensive speech therapy.

"We will look at fundraising and things [for a second cochlear implant] but she is 4 and I want her implanted before she hits school."

Wellington father Sym Gardiner, from 2ears2hear, said the campaign for government-funded bilateral cochlear implants was finally getting some traction with the scheduled meeting.

There were two things the group wanted from the meeting with the ministry: "For them to stop being silly and arguing that one cochlear implant is enough," he said. "And we want them to commit to a programme of rolling out funding for bilaterals for children, particularly around pre-lingual kids."

Mr Gardiner said Britain had introduced bilateral implants as standard and the Ministry of Health should take note.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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