Test children’s hearing early

Bellville firefighters have fun with the children after a fire drill at the Carel du Toit Centre for children with hearing impairments.

Bellville firefighters visited the Carel du Toit Centre for children with hearing impairment last week, and, after a fire drill, the children listened to the firefighters talk about their job.

While the children at the centre are deaf, they can hear with the help of hearing aids and cochlear implants.

According to the centre’s Lynn Cloete, early detection of hearing loss in a child is key to helping them integrate into a hearing society.

New parents, she says, should get their baby’s hearing tested. Some hospitals offer this test – which checks the tiny hairs in the ears of the newborn soon after birth.

Founded by the late Professor Carel du Toit, an ear nose and throat surgeon and former head of Tygerberg Hospital’s ENT department, the centre accommodates 120 children from age 3, in small classes of four to 10.

Ms Cloete says many people think deaf children should learn sign language. But if detected early enough, they can learn to speak and integrate into a hearing society.

At Carel du Toit, deaf children learn to hear and speak with the use of hearing devices.

When the children get to Grade 3 a decision is taken on whether mainstream or special-needs schooling is best for them.

The Carel du Toit Centre is tailored to the hearing needs of the children with insulated walls to amplify sound and minimise noise.

It is bilingual, has an after-care, food scheme garden, sports and a large playground.

Located in Tygerberg Hospital grounds, in a separate building is Children Hear And Talk (CHAT) where parents get help from an audiologist, speech therapist and support groups.

“Finding that your child has a hearing loss comes as a shock to most parents. At CHAT everything is mimicked in a house so that parents are taught how to bathe their child and what to do in the kitchen,” says Ms Cloete.

A cochlear implant is about R270 000 and there’s a long waiting list for them. Carel du Toit holds fund-raisers to help those children who need the devices.

“When they are first fitted with a cochlear it’s a miracle. They can hear a bird song and their mother tells them they love them,” says Ms Cloete.

Samaritan’s Feet SA, in recognition of World Hearing Day, on March 3, bought new shoes for 85 children at the centre.

More than half of the children at Carel du Toit come from households with little or no source of income.

* There will be a fun-walk fund-raiser around Tygerberg Hospital on Sunday April 19 from 9am. for a 5km fun walk around Tygerberg Hospital. Visit www.careldutoit.co.za, or email comms@careldutoit.co.za for details.