94.7 Bidvest Hear For Life Trust
Restoring the gift of hearing
Fifty-two people are now enjoying the gift of sound for the first time --- thanks to Bidvest, 94.7 Highveld Stereo and cochlear implants.
They’ve all benefitted in the past eight years from the 94.7 Bidvest Hear for Life Trust, an initiative that funds and provides cochlear implants to people who are deaf or hard of hearing.
Cochlear implants, sometimes called ‘bionic ears’, offer people suffering significant hearing loss the hope of sensing sound.
They enable children and adults, whether they're born deaf or lose hearing later, to hear everyday sounds and the voices of friends and loved ones.
Senior surgeon of the implant programme, Dr Maurice Hockman, says: "The cochlear implant processor has become extremely sophisticated and the hearing outcome can now quite closely approximate normal hearing.
"The gold standard outcome in children is for them to be able to attend a mainstream school. The earlier the child is implanted, the better the prognosis and the chances of achieving this goal."
The trust was established by 94.7 Highveld Stereo and Bidvest in September 2006 as a result of a Christmas Wish request to the station to help 13-year-old Che Talbot, who needed a costly, new receiver for her existing cochlear implant.
“After the broadcast of the story, the radio station was inundated with requests,” says Trust chairperson and CEO of Primedia Broadcasting, Terry Volkwyn.
“Unfortunately, the device, surgery and post-implantation therapy are extremely costly. A cochlear unit costs around R220 000 and recipients have to then undergo sound ‘mapping’ and specialised speech therapy. Few medical aid schemes cover it and it’s not a medical condition popular among fund raisers, as relatively few people benefit.”
Initially, implants were financed by money made from by 94.7’s fund-raising efforts and proceeds from the sale of the popular ‘Whackhead Prank’ CD released by Breakfast Xpress host, Darren Simpson.
In December 2005, Bidvest partnered 94.7, pledging to provide R1-million a year over five years to provide implants for people from historically and financially disadvantaged backgrounds.
"Bidvest supports many deserving charities and causes through its corporate social investment programmes," says chief executive, Brian Joffe. "The funds Bidvest provides for the Hear for Life Trust facilitates about six implants a year and that make a huge difference in recipients' lives, enabling them to live normally, learn and interact with their peers without hearing impediments.”
Because of the costs, criteria for applicants are stringent. Terry explains: “Little is achieved by implanting an expensive piece of equipment in the ear of someone who lacks resources to have speech therapy and make the most of the benefits.
“We want to give children a good quality of life and to be able to return older people to society and the workplace to make a meaningful contribution.”
The best rate of success is being shown to be in children younger than three.
The trust also pays for the Johannesburg Cochlear Implant Programme at the Donny Gordon Institute and therapy at the Hearing Impaired School near the Johannesburg General Hospital.
Dr Hockmann donates his expertise. The Netcare clinic where he works provides all surgical facilities free of charge. The Johannesburg Cochlear Implant Programme vets applicants, Bidvest Bank assesses their means and the trust makes the final decision on acceptance.
A cochlear implant, a small, electronic device that helps to provide a sense of sound to a person who is profoundly deaf or severely hard of hearing, is surgically placed under the skin behind the ear.
While it does not restore or create normal hearing, it can give a deaf person a useful auditory understanding of the environment and help him or her to understand speech.
By finding useful sounds electronically, the implant compensates for damaged or non-working parts of the inner ear that normally convert sound waves into electrical impulses for the brain.
Sounds through the implant differ from normal hearing, but the device allows its user to communicate orally in person and by telephone.
Three-year-old Monica du Toit last year became the 50th recipient of a cochlear implant made possible by the 94.7 Bidvest Hear for Life Trust.
Monica’s parents were concerned when she seemed to ignore them when they called to her. She also communicated mainly by gestures.
The cochlear implant allowed her to regain her hearing and restart her language and speech development.
Implants have also given hearing back to (among many others):
- Twenty-month-old Erin Francis, who was diagnosed at birth with profound hearing loss in both ears. Power hearing aids could not provide her with enough hearing to learn to speak effectively.
- Fifteen-month-old Luc Chauke, found in a field by farmer, Wayne Skews when he was only three and a half weeks old, and fostered by Wayne and Susan Joubert, who, in a twist of fate, is a speech therapist.
By the time Luc was six months old, Susan noticed he had problems hearing, and consultations with doctors and audiologists confirmed he was profoundly deaf. He showed no response to a hearing aid, which made him an ideal candidate for a cochlear implant.
- Joy Steele (76) who was profoundly deaf. For her, hearing aids were no longer effective. An older version of a right cochlear implant, fitted in 1980, aided her hearing until it stopped working and could not be repaired. It was removed when it became susceptible to electrical interference and Joy has had a new multi-channel nucleus implant fitted in her right ear.
- Luc Chauke
50th cochlear implant
The 94.7 Bidvest Hear For Life Trust is an initiative that was established by 94.7 Highveld Stereo and partner Bidvest in December, 2005. This trust was set up as a result of a Christmas Wish request that the station had received and aims to assist people who are less fortunate and in need of a cochlear implant.
"All of the recipients have suffered hearing loss at some point. Seeing them get it back through this project is most rewarding," said Terry Volkwyn, chairperson of the 94.7 Bidvest Hear For Life Trust and CEO of Primedia Broadcasting. "Through these operations they are once again able to lead normal, active lives."
Monica's parents became concerned when she seemed to ignore them when they called out to her. She also communicates mainly by gestures. The cochlear implant will allow Monica to regain her hearing and restart her language and speech development.
Since its establishment, the 94.7 Bidvest Hear For Life Trust has helped a number of hearing-impaired people regain their hearing and has raised an impressive R10.8 million. Netcare has also been a vital partner to this Trust and plays a pivotal role in making these implants possible.
Senior surgeon of the implant programme, Dr Maurice Hockman, says that working with the Trust as well as each recipient has been an amazing experience.
"It has been a dream come true to assist in providing the gift of hearing.
"I am blessed to be working with the 94.7 Highveld Stereo, Bidvest, Netcare and Southern ENT teams who each give selflessly of their time and resources," added Hockman.
Chief executive of Bidvest South Africa, Lindsay Ralphs, committed to another commendable five-year partnership. "It is a privilege and a unique opportunity to help people get their hearing back," said Ralphs.
If you know of anyone who is in need of a cochlear implant, please visit www.hearforlife.co.za to find out more about this wonderful initiative.
First Bidvest employee to receive a cochlear implant
Anderson was nominated for the award owing to his excellent service at BCX head office, an Execuflora client. He has been permanently located at BCX for five years and they have been very supportive of him, especially as he is deaf. Anderson lost his hearing 13 years ago.
When Alan Fainman, Execuflora chairman realised that he was making an award to a deaf man, he immediately put in a motivation for Anderson to receive a cochlear implant through the Hear For Life Foundation, an organisation founded in 2005 by 94.7 and financially supported by Bidvest.
BCX had already initiated pre-testing for the cochlear implant, to establish Anderson's percentage chance of success. As the process of the implant is very costly, Anderson was grateful when Bidvest decided to step into the gap and lead the way for him to become the very first Bidvest employee to receive a cochlear implant.
The six hour operation was done at Milpark Clinic on May 28 2013 and now Anderson is going through the process of therapy to learn to hear again. It takes 3 – 6 months for the brain to adjust to interpret sounds into meaningful conversations.
Godfrey Dhliwayo, general manager at Execuflora's East Rand branch, has walked alongside Anderson through the process of evaluation, surgery and now, the slow road to full recovery of hearing. "The audiologist is very impressed with Anderson's progress," says Godfrey, who not only delivered Anderson into surgery at Milpark, but has personally driven Anderson to each pre- and post-op session. "One-on-one, he can hear," he enthuses, "It's a miracle!"
Before the operation, Anderson confided to Godfrey that he was looking forward to speaking to his family who currently live in Zimbabwe. And he could not wait to hear Whitney Houston again.
Robbie Strang, Execuflora MD got wind of his request and has arranged, with the kind help of Ravi Govender, Bidprocure director, to turn this wish into a reality, and Anderson will soon be the recipient of a cellphone sponsored by a Bidvest supplier, and an iPod, preloaded with songs by Whitney Houston.