For 10 years Charlie Kiefte woke up each morning to silence.
Now when he wakes he hears everything other kids do - birds chirping, rubbish trucks backing and his mum greeting him with "good morning".
"It's awesome. Now, I'll be able to hear my family's voices. I really like hearing, I'm just happy," Charlie told the Herald moments after his second cochlear implant was switched on.
A cochlear implant is a surgically implanted electronic device that provides a sense of sound to a person who is severely hard of hearing or profoundly deaf.
The "resilient lover of life" was born with a rare condition - known as charge syndrome - that restricted his ability to make facial expressions, hear properly, smell and taste.
Last year, Charlie captured the hearts of thousands after he was given his best Christmas gift ever - a smile. That ability came from two eight-hour surgeries.
Now, the Herald can reveal exclusive video footage of the moment Charlie was able to hear properly out of both ears for the first time.
"I can hear that," Charlie said with a grin, jumping off his chair and clapping his hands as audiologist Robyn Moriarty banged on mini cymbal to test the device was working.
"One of the things I love about Charlie is he sees everything in a positive light, like when he takes his cochlear implants out he says, 'hey, I'm deaf again,' with a smile, like it's not a negative thing," said his mum, Rachel Kiefte.
She said despite all the challenges Charlie had been faced with he continued to fight and spread joy.
The greatest smile: Charlie learns to smile for first time
Four-year-old Kiwi boy born deaf, now speaks three languages
Every NZ kid gets a free health check at 4. Why it's now in the spotlight.
"He spent the first two years of his life in hospital and doctors initially said he would only live to six or 12 months, then thought he wouldn't be able to walk.
"Now he's not only walking but he's smiling and now he can hear which is just incredible," Kiefte said with a shaky voice as she held back tears of joy.
She said it was just lovely to see her son's face light up and know he was hearing better.
"He's got three older siblings and he just wants to be like them so it's just lovely seeing him being able to hear more and not struggling," she said.
Charlie's dad, Tim, stressed how important the moment was for the family.
"The conversation he'll be able to have with us around the dinner table and being involved, it's a big change for us. He grew up signing and getting the cochlear implants has been a real life-changer," Tim said.
The family credit Charlie's new ability to hear to surgeon Dr Colin Brown, who operated on him at Gillies Hospital in Epsom, Auckland.
Speaking to the Herald, Brown said it was a fantastic feeling to be able give Charlie a really positive benefit.
"He is such an incredible and positive child with an amazing attitude and he's just lovely to see and be around," he said.
Brown, who performs around 20 cochlear implant surgeries a year, said Charlie's operation was one of the hardest he'd done.
"He was at the extreme end of complexity so we are thrilled it went so well."
Charlie's first publicly funded surgery was last December and the second was two weeks ago. After each operation he needed a few weeks' recovery before the device could be switched on.
In total, the surgery and cochlear implants for children in New Zealand cost about $45,000. It's funded for children who are deaf in both ears but not for those who can hear out of one ear.
About charge syndrome:
• Charge syndrome is a disorder that affects many areas of the body. Charge is an abbreviation for coloboma, heart defects, atresia choanae, growth retardation, genital abnormalities, and ear abnormalities.
• The disorder affects about one in 10,000 Kiwi children.
• In the first few years there is an increased risk of serious medical issues. Although individuals with charge syndrome may remain medically fragile, they are able to adapt and lead productive and fulfilling lives.
About Loud Shirt Day, September 27:
is the annual appeal run by The Hearing House and the Southern Cochlear Implant Paediatric Programme.
This year it's being held on September 27.
The two charities help to enable deaf children with cochlear implants or hearing aids to listen and speak like their hearing peers. Neither charity charges deaf children or their families for their services.
Money raised through the appeal goes directly back to helping children like Charlie.