Liam Denny 5 from Gilmore shows of his coloured sound processor covers for his cochlear implant that he calls his "magic ears." Photo: Jeffrey Chan
With the help of his "magic ears" and three years of specialist help with language and speech, five-year-old Liam Denny will start in a mainstream primary school next year alongside his peers.
Liam is one of three hearing-impaired children from the ACT who will graduate from The Shepherd Centre's auditory-verbal therapy program on Friday, and go on to attend "big school".
His journey there has not been straightforward, but today Liam is like any other five-year-old and is set to join his older brother at Holy Family Primary School in Gowrie, where the classroom acoustics are of greater concern than Liam fitting in with his peers.
He chooses colourful covers for his cochlear implant, and doesn't shy away from drawing attention. "Kids will ask 'what are those things in your ears' and Liam says 'they're my magic ears'," his mother Kylie Denny said. "If they ask 'why have you got those?' he says 'my ears are broken and I need these to hear' - pretty simple explanation and that's all kids really need."
To get to this point has required a lot of work from Liam and his family; with his hearing loss not positively diagnosed until he was nearly two.
"He would have had hearing loss at birth, but he passed the newborn screening test and his hearing deteriorated very rapidly in that first 12-18 months," Mrs Denny said.
"He did have some hearing and he did develop speech, but not a normal speech pattern because he was missing high frequency sound.''
Liam was fitted with two hearing aids and began working weekly with a therapist at the Shepherd Centre to play catch up on two years of lost speech development. His parents worked on the strategies at home with him.
Things improved when he was fitted with a cochlear implant at three, and he gained a full range of hearing, albeit amplified, and has almost completely caught up in his speech, allowing him to attend mainstream school.
"He can't block out background noise so … noisy classroom situations and shopping centres, things like that are very hard for him, but he copes pretty well. Obviously he has to learn to live with it because that's what he's got; that's his lot in life.''