Minister launches Australia's largest cochlear implant program

Minister launches merger of Australia's largest cochlear implant program

The Hon. Jillian Skinner, MP, Minister for Health, and Minister for Medical Research, officially launched a merger between Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children (RIDBC) and Sydney Cochlear Implant Centre (SCIC), today, Monday 25 August, as part of Hearing Awareness Week.

Mrs Skinner used the event to announce that publicly-funded cochlear implants for adults will be offered at Westmead Hospital for the first time. She announced 12 of the implants would be undertaken at Westmead Hospital, with the other 10 performed through the Sydney Children’s Hospital Network.

“As Health Minister, I have been blessed to see a cochlear implant switched on and to witness the joy felt by a mother when a child hears her voice for the first time,” Mrs Skinner said.

The merger between RIDBC and SCIC creates Australia’s largest and most comprehensive cochlear implant program for people of all ages – the SCIC Cochlear Implant Program, an RIDBC service. This service supports children and adults every day to ensure they achieve the very best outcomes.

“In bringing together two great Australian charities we deliver life changing cochlear implant technology to children and adults with hearing loss across the country”, said RIDBC Chief Executive, Chris Rehn.

“The merger ensures more services are delivered to more Australians than ever before, giving us a greater ability to provide the highest level of support at every stage of the cochlear implant journey.”

Adults and children with hearing loss get the best results when cochlear implant services are combined with early intervention, therapy and specialist education programs. This merger ensures children and adults around Australia benefit from RIDBC’s integrated suite of services.

“Children and their families are greatly supported by RIDBC’s broad range of integrated education and therapy services, with adult recipients benefitting from an expanded suite of rehabilitation services. With more centres in more locations, we are ensuring that an increasing number of clients are able to access this enhanced level of service,” said Chris.

Five year old Elijah Porter, diagnosed as profoundly deaf at birth, was fitted with cochlear implants in both ears at five months of age, to give him access to sound. Elijah received cochlear implants through SCIC Cochlear Implant Program whilst also accessing RIDBC.

“Elijah’s cochlear implant switch on was an amazing experience. When the processors turned on he suddenly turned towards me with a look on his face that said “What was that!?” said Elijah’s mother, Ali. “He had the technology that would enable him to hear but it’s not just a simple switch on, and off you go... he had to learn to listen and learn to speak and RIDBC enabled us to do this.”

With the right technology and specialist support from RIDBC from an early age, Elijah’s speech and language is now above average for his age.

“Being deaf Elijah was expected to struggle with language development. Instead, his language is ahead of other kids his age. Thanks to the support from RIDBC and SCIC, he lives a life barely distinguishable from his hearing friends.”

RIDBC is Australia’s largest non-government provider of therapy, education and diagnostic services for people with hearing or vision loss, supporting thousands of adults, children and their families, each year.

RIDBC relies heavily on fundraising and community support to be able to continue to make a difference in the lives of children and adults with vision or hearing loss. In order to maintain its intensive educational, clinical and research programs, the organisation needs to raise approximately $2.5 million every month.