Implants introduce Addison to world of sound

Toddler's first Christmas being able to hear

PAUL EASTON
Last updated 05:00 03/01/2014
Addison Blundell
KENT BLECHYNDEN/ Fairfax NZ

HEAR AND NOW: Addison Blundell, 2, with her dad Rawiri Blundell, has had her first Christmas in the world of sound after receiving a double cochlear implant. 

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Even a toddler's tantrums have a positive side for the parents of Addison Blundell.

The Lower Hutt 2-year-old received a life-changing double cochlear implant in April. From a world in which she could hear nothing, she quickly learnt to recognise one important word.

"One thing we noticed was that she really hates the word ‘no'," father Rawiri Blundell says.

"She will throw a real paddy when she hears it. At first it was a bit frustrating, then we realised this is the cochlear implants working, they are so transparent that it just becomes normal.

"They're an incredible piece of technology."

Last year, Addison, of Lower Hutt, became the first known victim of a failure in newborn hearing tests, which affected 2000 infants nationwide.

Her congenital hearing loss should have been picked up within days of her birth, but a Hutt Hospital screener used her own hearing result and forged the paperwork. The woman later resigned.

Typically, patients are funded for only one cochlear implant, but the Hutt Valley District Health Board agreed to underwrite the cost of a second for Addison, bringing the bill for her parents down from $50,000 to $37,000.

She is still making regular trips to the Southern Cochlear Implant Programme in Christchurch, where doctors are pleased with her progress.

"I'm told they [patients] will seem to plateau for a while, then experience an explosion of development, so she's on the cusp of that," Mr Blundell said

Addison was "still a little monkey". "She's running around causing trouble, trying to pull the Christmas tree down."

The family have managed to pay for the implants, thanks to the generosity of Hutt Valley locals, organisations and businesses, including Rotary, the Stokes Valley Freemasons and the Croft Funeral Home.

"So it's great to have that $37,000 monkey off our back," Mr Blundell said.

A cochlear implant turns sounds into tiny electrical pulses sent directly to the hearing nerve, bypassing the inner-ear pathways that do not work.

Mr Blundell recently helped present a petition at Parliament, calling for the Health Ministry to fund double implants, which are considered international best practice.

Ireland recently announced funding for double, or bilateral, implants.

A Health Ministry spokesman said late last month that there had been no change in New Zealand's policy, "but we continue to review international developments in this regard".

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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