Monday, September 30, 2013

KCAT CAN: The gift of hearing (II)

The gift of hearing

A cochlear implant (CI) is a surgically implanted electronic device that can provide a sense of sound to a person who is profoundly deaf or severely hard of hearing. It can’t restore someone’s hearing nor cure deafness but for a person with hearing impairment and their family, CI is a life-changing device.

I too, have experienced a better quality of life after receiving my CI in 2008. I may still not understand speech or listen to music but the little sounds that I hear make the difference. It may just be a mere noise to most people but for me, it’s a blessing; it’s life.

Last year, I’ve written about Zyrene Fernandez and Zoe Oabel. Both of them were candidates for a cochlear implant at that time and their family raised more than P1 million for it. Luckily, it turned out that they didn’t need to raise money for it anymore as each of them won a CI device during Med-el Philippines’ 15th anniversary in November. Instead, they used the money for their hospital bills and other expenses. Zyrene had her implantation in March while Zoe had hers a month later and they have both shown a lot of progress since then.
Four months after, Zoe can already recognize and differentiate sounds. She now looks back whenever someone calls her name. She can’t speak words yet but she is already able to imitate some short diphthongs like Ma, Me, Moo, Mee or even Mama.

“She is still limited to the sound, but with the positive results she is now showing, she has a great possibility to learn many things with the help of CI,” said Theresa, Zoe’s mom.

Zyrene’s hearing and vocal skills are also gradually improving as the days go by. Like Zoe, she can determine sounds even if it’s a few meters away from her. She can already appreciate music and follow melodies. She can also pronounce small syllables like Ma, Ba and would often talk gibberish like a one-year-old. She can already understand whenever someone is talking to her. The speech therapist always gives positive feedback regarding Zyrene’s progress and that inspires her parents to help her improve even more.

“Words cannot express the happiness we have right now. We’re really thankful that this technology was invented for people who are hearing impaired because our wish for our little girl to hear came true. Soon, she’ll be able to speak with us, too!” Zyrene’s mother, Maurene, happily shared.


A few days ago, a reader of this column, Annie Lyn Caspe from Cebu emailed me about her desire to get a CI for her one-year-old son who was diagnosed with a bilateral profound hearing loss.

Three years after their first child, Annie Lyn and John Paul were blessed with a second son named Geuel Paul on June 23, 2012. Annie had a delicate pregnancy and delivered him at 38 weeks via Caesarean Section. Geuel stayed in the neonatal intensive care unit for 10 days for mechanical ventilation and intubation because he had thick meconium staining, hemorrhage at the base of his umbilical cord, slow heart rate and no spontaneous respiration.

On his sixth month, Annie noticed that Geuel doesn’t respond whenever they would call his name. Annie sensed that something was wrong and immediately brought him to his pediatrician. In May, Geuel was diagnosed with profound hearing loss on both ears.

At first, Annie felt depressed that her youngest son can’t hear and talk while his eldest can. She prayed for Geuel, her family and herself for acceptance and strength.

Soon, she was able to get in touch with Starkey Hearing Foundation who referred her to the International Deaf Education Association (IDEA) in Bohol for a free hearing aid. After a week of usage, Geuel didn’t want to wear it anymore and would even throw it away. He was not receiving much benefit from it. A cochlear implant, which costs about P1.2 million per ear, is the only hope for him to be able to hear and speak. Annie and John both have stable jobs but even with their combined annual income, they still couldn’t afford the CI.
“We know this is a large amount of money, but we are hoping to raise the funds so that we can proceed with the surgery before he reaches the age of two,” John wrote on Geuel’s Facebook page.

Ideally, the child should have received the necessary intervention before the age of six months, to help in his or her speech and language development. For Geuel, the earlier he gets implanted, the sooner he can benefit from it.

According to his mom, Geuel is such a sweet child who loves to hug and kiss his family. While he caresses his mom, Annie often tells him, “Someday you will be able to hear me say ‘I love you’ and call us Mama, Papa and Kuya.”

“I know that these are just trials that we will overcome. I need to keep the faith because I know God will always be there, no matter what. Everything is possible with God,” said Annie.

Like Geuel, six-year-old Wael Renzo Bendecio was also diagnosed with profound hearing loss. He used hearing aids only for a year. CI is the only way for Wael to be able to hear and develop his speech ability. His family needs to raise at least P1.1 million for a piece of CI device so that Wael will be able to hear the noisy world and have a brighter future ahead of him.

Both children and their families appeal to kindhearted people to help them receive the gift of hearing. For Geuel, support “Share and Donate P100 for Geuel’s Cochlear Implant” campaign on Facebook or call Annie Lyn Caspe at 0916-7089832. For Wael Renzo, call his mother Princess Bendecio at 0949-8623684.

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