Breaking the silence – with a cochlear implant
In order for children with hearing loss to learn speech and language, they must be identified early, get appropriate hearing technology and have access to locally-based professional expertise and parent involvement. While hearing aids are usually sufficient for spoken language development in children with mild to moderate hearing loss, children with profound hearing loss need cochlear implant technology to be able to hear the sounds of speech required to develop spoken language.
Place & Year
Project PartnersGlobal Foundation for Children with Hearing Loss (GFCHL)
The problem: In Vietnam, as in many other low and middle-income countries, there is no insurance coverage or state subsidization for cochlear implants. The cochlear implant device, the associated surgery, the ongoing therapy and audiological services, and lifetime product maintenance costs are beyond the financial means of many families in Vietnam. Therefore, the Global Foundation For Children With Hearing Loss (GFCHL) and the Hear the World Foundation have entered into a unique collaboration that enables 10 Vietnamese children in need with significant hearing loss to hear and speak.
It is a moving moment when then three-year-old Lam hears his parents’ voices clearly for the first time at a children’s hospital in Hanoi. The thin boy beams from ear to ear. Now, he can finally hear! Lam’s parents have long been looking forward to this day. Five weeks earlier, their son was given an implant. The externeal speech processor has now been added. Experts from the Hear the World Foundation together with the local team, have meticulously prepared for this special moment and carefully supervised the activation.
Tung Lam is one of ten children with profound hearing loss, for whom the Hear the World Foundation, through the HearVietnam program, has donated the latest cochlear implant technology, the costs of the surgery, and long-term audiological follow-up care. Tung Lam was born prematurely, with hearing loss so severe that hearing aids would not suffice. Cochlear implant technology was his only hope. But Tung Lam’s family could not afford to cover the costs. All the happier they were when they learned from Lam's speech therapist about the program provided by the Hear the World Foundation and the Global Foundation for Children with Hearing Loss.
Sustained engagement for long-term success
After the CI has been activated, Tung Lam could hear, but a time of intensive training began for him and his family. While children with normal hearing start babbling away quite naturally, Tung Lam had to learn to distinguish between sounds and practice talking and listening. He has been given one year of auditory-verbal therapy by Vietnamese professionals, who have been trained by the Global Foundation for Children With Hearing Loss. Therapists taught the families how to support their children’s listening and spoken language development and gave them useful tips on how to help their children at home.
One year after the activation of the CI, the progress is substantial: Tung Lam has learned to speak, he forms sentences independently and proactively, perceives his surroundings intensively and attends a regular kindergarten. In the beginning, his kindergarten teacher paid special attention to him and sensitized the other children to Tung Lam's reduced hearing, but this is no longer necessary. Tung Lam is a socially integrated and happy child like everyone else. The CI also has a big impact on the family life: Tung Lam now participates much more in family life and also plays with his older brother.
The program is not completed yet: Vietnamese audiologists from Sonova Vietnam provide ongoing audiological services at no charge to the families. Thus, they receive everything they need so that their children are able to learn to listen and to talk in the best possible way.