Zade McKenzie (5), of Alexandra, is breaking the sound barrier.
Born profoundly deaf, he has now reached milestones related to speech and language development of 100% compared to his peers.
This means he is able to interact alongside other pupils in mainstream education at the Terrace School in Alexandra.
Zade was born with auditory neuropathy spectrum disorder (ANSD).
His parents Amber Leask and Simon McKenzie, both of Alexandra, were living in Queensland when he was born.
“We found out that he had ANSD, and eventually, profound hearing loss,” Mr McKenzie said.
Hearing aids were unlikely to be effective, so instead, when he was 14 months old, Zade had an operation to install cochlear implants.
Twenty-two electrodes were put on each side of his head, along with a magnet which enabled an external processor to be connected.
The processor turned sound into electrical energy which stimulated auditory nerve fibres in the inner ear, bypassing damaged cells and sending impulses to the brain where they were interpreted as sound.
Having no hearing for the first 14 months of his life, Zade had some catching up to do, but thanks to speech habilitation he now had a normal level of speech and language.
“Where we are now is that he has caught up 100%, which is amazing.
“When you consider he didn’t have anything for 14 months, and the fact that he doesn’t hear quite the same as us, or as well as us, that is quite a good achievement,” Mr McKenzie said.
Although Zade’s first operation took place in Australia, he had received ongoing support in New Zealand thanks to two charities: The Hearing House, and the Southern Cochlear Implant Programme.
The Hearing House covered from Turangi to the top of the North Island, while the Southern Cochlear Implant Programme covered the rest of the country.
When Zade’s parents moved back to New Zealand, they first lived in Auckland and were able to access the help of the Hearing House, which provided auditory and verbal therapy workshops for children, as well as training and advice for parents.
After moving to Alexandra, they transferred to the Southern Cochlear Implant Programme, which continues to provide support and follow-up services such as replacement sound processors.
Loud Shirt Day is the annual appeal for the two charities, which invites New Zealanders to dress in a loud shirt as a fundraiser on September 28.
Hearing House fundraising and communications manager Melanie Louden said Loud Shirt day was about raising awareness as well as raising money.
Government funding provided only half the money needed to provide the programmes they ran, so fundraising initiatives like Loud Shirt Day were important, she said.
“It helps us provide vital money to run the programme we want to provide.”
Southern Cochlear Implant Programme fundraising manager Belinda Van der Monde said Loud Shirt Day donations went to to the region in which they were raised.
“Hundreds of New Zealand children come to the Southern Cochlear Implant Programme for audiology and therapy services.”
All services were free to children up to 19 years of age, and the programme worked hard to ensure each child reached their full potential in developing spoken language and communication, she said.
Loud Shirt Day
Dress in a loud shirt to raise money for deaf children with cochlear implants and hearing aids.