“I now have the ability to choose whatever path I want to take in life.”
Lachie Bartlett vividly remembers the moment his cochlear implant was switched on for the first time.
“I was eight, and my family was behind the one-way mirror that looked into the room,” says Lachie.
“I remember Mama saying:
'Hi Lachie' from the other side of the glass. I smiled immediately. The next sound I heard was the tears of my nana and Mama.”
That was 14 years ago. Lachie has since graduated with a law degree, and was awarded a scholarship to study at the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom. Prior to this he was head boy at St Bede’s College in Christchurch.
Lachie’s hearing loss was diagnosed at 18 months old. He lost his hearing completely when he was eight years old, while playing a game of tennis with his brother Cam.
“I remember falling over at the tennis courts and being disorientated, and my hearing aids just refused to work. The sudden nature of my hearing loss was incredibly scary for myself and my family,” says Lachie.
"I became a recluse. I wouldn't say much, and I preferred to be alone when at home, and I did not enjoy school. The loss of my hearing crippled my confidence and shackled my ability to continue developing relationships with those around me.”
The cochlear implant has enabled Lachie to reach his full potential.
“My cochlear implant has empowered me with something that is priceless – self-determination. I also became a lot more independent and confident at school. My speech improved significantly. I can communicate freely with people and ultimately do what I want to do.”
"Thanks to my cochlear implant, I was able to travel halfway around the world studying and doing my OE like so many other Kiwis before me. I now have the ability to choose whatever path I want to take in life.”
Surgery and the subsequent switch-on is only one part of the cochlear implant process. Patients need to learn how to use the technology and interpret the new sounds through ongoing audiology and speech and language therapy. Lachie received this support from the Southern Cochlear Implant Programme (SCIP).
"The switch-on is significant, but it’s merely the first step in a marathon,” says Lachie.
"The ongoing rehabilitation and support from organisations like SCIP are equally as important but sadly don’t get the same amount of attention. The cochlear implant is like getting your first car, something that has endless potential to take you anywhere, but if you are not empowered to be able to use it you'll just stay stuck in the drive."
"Throughout my childhood, I received endless support from SCIP for audiology services and auditory-verbal therapy. The support they provide families is priceless and life-changing. The amazing team at SCIP continues to play a significant role in my life, 14 years after I received my cochlear implant.” Lachie regularly participates in Loud Shirt Day and encourages others to do the same. “The funds that are raised by Loud Shirt Day helped me and will help children in the future to focus on their abilities – enabling them to view their disability as an opportunity, rather than a burden. You have the chance to change people’s lives. The money raised for Loud Shirt Day is a direct investment in the lives of those who want to hear.”