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Loud Shirt Day 2021: Gillian Doyle's story

You don’t have to look hard to discover inspiring people among us at The Hearing House. Meet Gillian.

By day she quietly goes about her business looking after our accounts but scratch a little deeper and you will find she and her son Matthew are also our clients; a family who has walked the walk.

Matthew was first referred to The Hearing House in 2006. He even took his first steps here at our preschool!

This is Gillian’s Story in her own words…

Would you like Matthew to go through mainstream schooling or …? What! My mind screamed. Oh yes mainstream, I replied calmly. My son wasn’t even one yet, we hadn’t thought about him going to school, let alone not going to a mainstream school. So, as the penny dropped, the consequences of Matthew’s hearing test results have just become incredibly clear.

Lack of hearing means lack of hearing others speak and therefore affects learning to talk - so obvious now…

It was from this conversation, with our Adviser on Deaf Children (AODC) from the Ministry of Education, that it was suggested we meet with The Hearing House.

I naively thought my AODC was coming over to give me some pearls of wisdom on how to get Matthew to keep his hearing aids on.

Surely once Matthew's hearing aids stayed on his hearing was fixed? Job done? Not so for a child who hadn’t yet learnt to talk.

Off to The Hearing House we went. This was all so new – we didn’t know what to ask or what we needed as a family. Surely at the next audiology appointment it would all become clear, Matthew's hearing was going to be fine and we would be on our way?

Denial is something our family has struggled with; Matthew's initial hearing results showed a profound loss, but he turns his head towards sounds, looks at the door when his Dad gets home from work, and clearly does hear sounds. This is when our family was introduced to Auditory Neuropathy. Now, very much part of our vocabulary.

Just quickly, Auditory Neuropathy loosely translates to “a spanner in the works”. The only way to tell what Matthew heard at this stage was by observing him and to “’wait and see” - a phrase we are also now very familiar with.

It now appears Matthew’s hearing loss is mild to moderate.

It was obvious from the outset, The Hearing House was family focused, the staff professional and caring, and the environment relaxed and welcoming.

I knew we were in good hands.

A lot of the approach at The Hearing House is to show by example. We were encouraged to talk. Show verbal communication. I am someone who is relatively shy, perhaps self-conscious, preferring to be a background person. The need to talk, talk, talk, and talk some more was difficult. I felt like a clown! However, Matthew’s therapist Phoebe had such fun, original ideas in her session she quickly showed me how I could enjoy the “therapy”.

Seeing just how much Matthew enjoyed and responded to Phoebe, any shame I had felt melted away.

During that first year at The Hearing House, Matthew’s concentration span and interest in play increased dramatically. He loved his therapy, and when he said an occasional word our hearts soared.

Catching up every month with parents of other hearing impaired children has also been a huge support for me. Even though we all have our own journey to travel including our children. Knowing you are not on your own makes a big difference.

Many parents have great ideas and understand the feelings you’re dealing with, they can relate. It is a relief knowing how normal our reactions are. Learning how to deal with different frustrations and celebrate achievements, both initially and as the journey continues.

Now, I no longer wonder what goes on there, is it a ‘special’ school? I have some experience of what goes on there! It is a special place, a very special place. The children, however, are just your usual children - shy, mischievous, delightful, noisy, outgoing, and gorgeous. We will never be more grateful for The Hearing House and the hugely positive impact it has had on our family and Matthew’s future.

Gillian has worked with us for the past seven years and we are so lucky to have her as part of the team, professionally but also personally.

Gillian, Matthew and her family are part of our collective story.

Matthew is now in Year 12 and a typical teenager, with extra challenges but essentially a teenager.

He loves keeping busy and is interested in all things sports – rugby, basketball, football, baseball, cricket.

The images in this video show Matthew enjoying being part of Eden Rugby winning the Gallaher Shield for the first time in its 99 year history!

Matthew and Gillian are also pictured fundraising for their first Loud Shirt Day in 2006.

When you donate to Loud Shirt Day you are helping families like Gillian’s and Matthew's, and many other wonderful families around us.

Loud Shirt Day is on Friday 29 October

It is the national fundraising campaign for The Hearing House and the Southern Cochlear Implant Programme (SCIP) – the only two charities in New Zealand dedicated to supporting children and adults with cochlear implants as they learn to listen and communicate.

Together, these two organisations support thousands of Kiwis in every region of New Zealand who access sound with cochlear implants.

Head to the Loud Shirt Day website now to register or donate.

This year you can also text LOUD to 305 to make an instant $3 donation to Loud Shirt Day.


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