Ask five-year-old Zaheen Ansar a question and he will answer in two possible ways.
If the question was spoken, he may choose to respond with his voice. However, if the question was asked in New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL), the energetic Papatoetoe youngster will have no qualms in responding with his hands.
That’s because Zaheen and his parents Abdul and Rifat are Deaf and use NZSL as their first language.
Zaheen’s hearing loss was first identified through the New Zealand Newborn Hearing Screening Programme - which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year - when he was just days old.
While Zaheen’s parents strongly identify with Deaf culture and are successful in their first language, they decided Zaheen would benefit from having access to sound.
So at nine-months-old, with the support of The Hearing House, he underwent cochlear implant surgery. A cochlear implant is a surgically implanted electronic device that provides the sensation of sound for people with severe and profound hearing loss.
“Our wider family doesn’t Sign very much so we felt the implants will make it easier for our parents to communicate with him,” Abdul explains via an interpreter.
With access to sound through his cochlear implant, Zaheen’s communication world is wide. As well as being in a passionate Deaf culture, and enrolled in Ko Taku Reo, he can also hear and speak with his grandparents.
Abdul says Zaheen’s grandparents are “very oral” and Sign “a little bit”, signing some things to Zaheen like “we’re just going outside” or “we’re doing the cooking, can you help?”.
He says he and Rifat prefer using NZSL with Zaheen because he can understand them well with Sign.
“The cochlear implant is really to support him. We don’t want them because we are really happy using interpreters and get a lot of access that way.”
Zaheen says he can hear well with his cochlear implant.
“I like to hear talking, and loud sounds in my ear,” he says.
More than 1000 children and adults in the upper North Island who benefit from a cochlear implant are supported by The Hearing House.
The Hearing House Clinical Director Holly Teagle says their paediatric programme focuses on developing meaningful communication for families.
“The needs of each child on our programme are unique and we use a variety of flexible and creative approaches to learn what a child responds to and how to turn that into success.”
“Like Zaheen, all children on our programme receive specialised Listening and Spoken Language (LSLS) therapy tailored to suit any communication mode, language or culture.”
The Hearing House Deafness knows no social, ethnic or cultural boundaries. At The Hearing House we support people to access sound with cochlear implants.
We work with more than 1000 New Zealanders in the upper North Island who use or will benefit from a cochlear implant.
Through our passionate and dedicated team of audiologists, specialised therapists, and support staff we deliver a range of services and programmes to assist people with cochlear implants and their wider whanāu.
Most of our services are publicly funded as part of the Northern Cochlear Implant Programme. As a charity we rely on donations to provide lifetime support to our clients.
NZ Sign Language Week 10 to 16 May 2021
Is an opportunity for the Sign Language Community in New Zealand to showcase our language and provide opportunities for people to learn New Zealand Sign Language.