Hearing aids help children and adults with a moderate hearing loss by amplifying the sounds that they hear.
But hearing aids cannot enable children and adults with a profound hearing loss to hear and speak, so cochlear implants were developed and are now provided to deaf children and some adults throughout New Zealand. Unlike hearing aids, which make sound louder, a cochlear implant works by imitating the function of the inner ear so that people who are born profoundly deaf or lose their hearing through illness or accident can hear.
When the first people in New Zealand received a cochlear implant, the surgeons expected that they would develop spoken language like their hearing peers. However, it was soon found that these people required additional support to learn how to listen with their cochlear implant and understand spoken language.
The Hearing House and the Southern Cochlear Implant Programme employ a method called Auditory-Verbal Therapy to enable people with a cochlear implant to develop clear, natural-sounding spoken language. In children Auditory-Verbal Therapy works by accelerating the natural language development process to enable hearing-impaired child to catch up on the listening and language development that he or she missed out on before receiving a cochlear implant. In adults Assisted Listening Devices (ALD's) are used to help re-train the brain to remember the sounds they once heard.
The benefits of an implant are life-changing, people with hearing loss can overcome their disability and develop clear, natural sounding spoken language. Children are then able to start mainstream school at age five with the same potential as their hearing peers. These children who have been through these programmes are also able to do the normal things that you and I take for granted - such as talking on a cell phone, listening, participating in sport and chatting with family and friends. Adults can connect or re-connect with people, home, work and their communities.