When Simon Baldock was asked if he still wanted cochlear implants after years of waiting, he replied, "Is the Pope Catholic?"
The 50-year-old psychologist had struggled to hear since he was a teenager. For years, "everyone sounded like Donald Duck" and social gatherings became too distressing, so he isolated himself, he said.
Speaking on the phone from his living room in Picton - an unfathomable task without his implants - Baldock shared his story with the Herald, following the Government's announcement of a $28 million injection over four years towards adult cochlear implants.
He wanted New Zealand to know the significance of this investment.
"The first time I switched on my implants was really emotional ... I simply wasn't sure if it would work. I spent four years waiting for this moment so you see all my emotion just poured out of me," Baldock said.
Before the announcement, only 40 adults received funding for a cochlear implant each year, with hundreds on the waiting list for the life-changing surgery. Now, an additional 80 adults each year will receive access to the technology.
The implants are not covered by insurance, so people either need Government funding through the disability budget, or they front the $50,000 cost themselves.
In November 2019, Baldock had an assessment to check if he was eligible for cochlear implants. He assumed he would get them straight away.
Instead, he was forced to wait. "I was distraught for months," he said.
If it wasn't for the pandemic, it's likely he'd still be waiting.
In May last year, his partner got a call asking if Baldock would be available in the next week to get cochlear implants.
"They had a bunch of cancellations because people couldn't move around due to Covid."
The moment he could hear again was one he will never forget. Baldock said that moment reminded him of the song Don't stop believin' by the band Journey.
Now, he can enjoy going to the cinema with his partner, listen to the music he loves, order coffee without hassle and Skype his parents in the United Kingdom.
His hearing has gone from 30 per cent to 92 per cent.
Before his implants, the psychologist needed an interpreter present during his sessions. Now, he's back to working full-time.
Neil Heslop, Southern Cochlear Implant Programme chief executive, said the group had been campaigning for years for a long-term, sustainable funding increase to meet the growing backlog and demand for adult cochlear implants.
"It's brilliant news ... as well as the direct patient benefits, it has an excellent social, community and economic return on investment," Heslop said.
Dr Amanda Kvalsvig, an infectious disease epidemiologist working on the country's Covid-19 response, was also profoundly deaf and had a cochlear implant – without it, she could not do her job.
"Having people wait for a cochlear implant for years and years is a terrible waste of human potential. There are so many of us who have so much to give," Kvalsvig said.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation was warning one in four people worldwide will be living with some degree of hearing loss by 2050.
Already, one in six Kiwis struggle to hear.
The National Foundation of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing wants to test children in secondary school - compulsory hearing tests are only done at birth and at ages 3 to 4.