Kids supporting kids – loudly!

Loud Shirt Day 2020 is being held on Friday, 23 October. Kiwi kids throughout the country are encouraged to dress up in their brightest outfits and raise vital funds to help children with hearing loss.

Bruna Perin will never forget the day her daughter Luisa’s cochlear implant was switched on for the first time. 

“It was a very beautiful moment. The first thing she heard was my voice calling her name and then she reacted right away and looked at me. I could not hold back my tears. It was amazing.” 

Luisa (3) was born in Brazil. The Perin family moved to New Zealand when Luisa was eight months old, and soon after Bruna noticed problems with Luisa’s hearing. 

She was eventually diagnosed with bilateral neurosensory hearing loss, which means there is damage to the inner ear or to the nerves connecting the inner ear to the brain. 

“She had a lack of response to sound. We could bang a door, and she didn't care at all. I started trying to test her with loud sounds, and she wasn't responding.

“It makes me sad thinking that she couldn’t hear anything for the first year and a half of her life. We still don't know if she lost her hearing or if she was born deaf.”

Luisa was 18-months-old when she received her cochlear implant. The Perin family aren’t New Zealand citizens, so they weren’t eligible for government funding. With incredible support from their community in Brazil, they raised the money for the surgery and gave their child the gift of hearing. 

“Every time that she achieves something or she comes out with a different word or sound, I feel so proud,” says Bruna. “The first time she recognised music and started dancing, it was amazing. We speak Portuguese so she can speak both Portuguese and English now. But I would say that her favourite sound is music.” 

Luisa, and thousands of other adults and children with cochlear implants, are the focus of Loud Shirt Day 2020 – a national fundraising event and awareness campaign being held in October. New Zealanders are encouraged to dress up in their brightest outfits and hold fundraising events at workplaces, homes and schools throughout the country. 

Loud Shirt Day is the annual appeal of The Hearing House (THH) and the Southern Cochlear Implant Programme (SCIP) – the only two charities in New Zealand dedicated to helping children and adults with a cochlear implant learn to listen and speak. 

The programmes and services offered by SCIP and THH include assessment, cochlear implant surgery, listening and spoken language therapy, audiology, and outreach programmes for regional and remote patients. Both organisations are also committed to clinical research and professional development.

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.

Bruna says it’s always difficult as a parent to watch your child battle obstacles, and that Luisa will have to work hard to learn everything from the beginning. But with cochlear implants, she says her daughter will be able to achieve anything she sets her mind to.   

“I'm so grateful for the technology. I'm so grateful to see the future that she can achieve with cochlear implants.”

Bruna’s advice to other parents with hearing-impaired children is to be patient and take advantage of the support and resources that are available. 

“Your child is unique, so they're going to have their own difficulties and their own winnings as well. It's a lot but believe in the technology, believe in the professionals and believe in your child because they can achieve great things.”

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