Father Christmas visited the Soal family early this year, son
Linkin having his new cochlear implant switched on last week.
The 5-year-old has two hearing conditions: impairment, and
auditory neuropathy spectrum disorder, which distorts sound.
He has had hearing aids for the past couple of years, but the
cochlear implant means he can now hear clearly.
His mother, Sharon, likens the situation to tuning a radio,
with Linkin's pre-cochlear hearing akin to an untuned one.
The festive season would be different this year.
''He's not having a distorted Christmas,'' she said.
However, the implant was the start
of a long journey, and his parents hope he will become fluent
in sign and spoken language.
At first, Linkin did not react when the implant was switched
on, but when its volume was increased, he wanted it taken
''Even now, every now and then he'll say, 'no, I don't want
it', but he does want it, he does want to hear,'' she said.
His hearing loss was not detected until he was 2 years and
nine months old.
Mrs Soal believed the late diagnosis was partly because of
the documented problems at Dunedin Hospital's audiology
department, described this year in two health and disability
deputy commissioner reports.
Linkin was checked for glue ear at the hospital, which did
not pick up the hearing loss.
Because he ''got by'' visually and used gestures, for a long
time she had not suspected he had a hearing problem, and
thought only that he was not an early talker.
The operation to insert the implant was performed at St
George's Hospital, in Christchurch, late last month.
The Dunedin family will travel to Christchurch several more
times in the coming months for refinements to the implant
It was not a straightforward decision to go ahead with the
implant, and at first, husband Gary was unsure whether it was
the right thing to do.
The procedure risked destroying Linkin's residual hearing
because of the nature of the operation.
Mr Soal acknowledged he was initially cautious, but the
result looked promising.
It was too early to be certain, but he believed Linkin's
language had improved already.
The Government funds only one cochlear implant, and it would
be beneficial for him to have a second one if possible, Mrs