Three-and-a-half-year-old Lily Hooper from Greytown has become one of the first children in New Zealand to receive a second cochlear implant under the Government's new funding regime for the devices.
Cochlear implants are similar in size to high-powered hearing aids.
They help people who gain little or no benefit from standard hearing aids by transforming speech and other sounds into electrical energy that stimulates auditory nerve fibres in the inner ear.
Previously, children with severe to profound hearing loss in both ears received one funded cochlear implant.
From this month newly-referred children are being offered two funded implants, and children under six who currently have one device are being offered a second.
Lily's mother, Kate Hooper, says before her implants Lily would get frustrated because she could not communicate or understand what people were saying to her.
"She's got two older brothers and they're both at school so life's pretty busy. She slots in a lot easier now because she understands the routines."
Kate says the second implant is already making a difference for her daughter, who was born with progressive hearing loss.
"Since the second implant, some words she uses are certainly a lot clearer. And her confidence with what she's saying has got a lot better.
"She's doing really well.
"In terms of her speech and language, she's behind by about a year. With the second implant we hope to have her up to speed by the time she starts school."
Kate says she wanted Lily to have a second implant before she started school, so she would find it easier to hear in a crowded environment.
"When you've only got one ear it's just noise - when you've got two, you can tune in. Everyone's born with two ears so obviously it's best to have two ears."
Lily is the first child to receive a second implant under the new funding arrangement through the Christchurch-based Southern Cochlear Implant Programme, which serves the South Island and lower half of the North Island.
Later this year the southern programme will open a new Wellington facility, meaning North Island patients and their families will have fewer trips to Christchurch.
Kate says the new Wellington service will eliminate a lot of stress for families and patients, who still need to be seen regularly after their devices have been fitted and switched on.
"For me I've got to organise someone to pick up my two boys from school and look after them until their dad can get home from work. And all the travel is exhausting.
"It will be a lot easier having the new facility. We'll just have to get in the car and drive for an hour from Greytown to Wellington."
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