Our regular visits to Samoa to test the hearing of deaf children and fit them with donated hearing aids had to stop because of Covid, as flying to Samoa became difficult. Our last visit was in March 2020 and we left Samoa just as they began to close the country down.

Five Samoan children have been fitted with Cochlear Implants, as a result of initiatives by Next Sense (or the Royal Institute for Deaf children/ Sydney Cochlear Implant Centre, as it was). These devices are used where the hearing loss is so great that a hearing aid would not help.

Four of the children were implanted several years ago by Professor Bill Gibson (at no charge) and the devices were programmed remotely with help from colleagues in Samoa (one other child was implanted in New Zealand). These devices would have cost about $25,000 each (plus surgical costs) and need maintenance and spare parts. Part of the device is implanted in the child’s head but another part (the processor) is worn behind the ear, like a large hearing aid. As more than two years had passed since our last visit, one device was not working and all the children were using spare processors. Several of them needed the special rechargeable batteries and chargers, as well as other spare parts.

These children are all profoundly deaf and oral communication would be impossible without the cochlear implant. They would not be able to attend school without sign language support.

When I contacted the Cochlear Implant group at Next Sense, Kyle Chisolm of Next Sense responded and agreed to donate a large number of spare parts including the processors. If these parts were new, they would be worth about A$80,000. Fortunately, the devices used in Samoa were an earlier model cochlear implant processor and many Australian children have now been fitted with new models, so spare parts for the older models are available.

Cristy and I collected a large box of spare parts from Next Sense in Gladesville a couple of weeks ago, sorted them out and posted the devices in two parcels to Samoa. The first one has just arrived there.

It will make a huge difference to these children and we are very grateful for the generous support of Next Sense.

Our work in Samoa is supported by a Rotary Australia World Community Service (RAWCS) grant

-Philip and Cristy Newall