WATCH | She lost her hearing, not her voice – 12-year-old poet shares her inspiring story

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Lister Maramba was diagnosed with profound bilateral hearing loss at the age of 18 months. 

What is bilateral hearing loss?

It is hearing loss that affects both ears. While it is common for bilateral hearing loss to occur gradually over time, it can occur suddenly in some (rare) cases.

At 22 months, she was fitted with hearing aids and started rehab at the Carel du Toit Centre.

Her mom, Viola, moved with Lister and her older brother from their home in Great Brak River to live in residence at the Carel du Toit Centre in Cape Town.

This allowed Lister to access the appropriate rehabilitation and correct technology for her hearing loss.

Three years after being fitted with hearing aids, Lister received a cochlear implant.

What is a cochlear implant?

It's an electronic device that improves hearing. Unlike hearing aids, which amplify sound, a cochlear implant bypasses damaged portions of the ear to deliver sound signals to the hearing (auditory) nerve.

It uses a sound processor that fits behind the ear. The processor captures sound signals and sends them to a receiver implanted under the skin behind the ear. The receiver sends the signals to electrodes implanted in the snail-shaped inner ear (cochlea).

Lister's older brother was also diagnosed with bilateral hearing loss when he was five. Unfortunately, he was too old to develop spoken language, but he now attends a signing school in Worcester.

In 2022, eight years after receiving her cochlear implant, Lister ran into problems with her sound processor. Like any system or software, these implants succumb to wear and tear and need regular upgrades – and this was where the Let's Hear Foundation stepped in to help.

Who is the Let's Hear Foundation?

The foundation was established in March 2014 by founder Bruce McKay. The foundation aims to assist persons with hearing impediments, no matter their age or cultural background, and no matter their hearing impediment. Their efforts include fundraising events, where necessary, for cochlear implants and bone-anchored hearing aids. 

In partnership with a renowned audiologist, Deon Ceronio, Let's Hear currently supplies hearing aids to any person who meets their criteria for selection at absolutely no cost, wherever possible.

With funds available from Let's Hear, and an extensive contact list from Ceronio, the foundation came across Lister's need for a new sound processor, along with nine others who needed assistance. 

The Let's Hear Foundation and their sister foundation, Let's Hear Foundation Switzerland teamed up to assist 10 cochlear patients from across the country with the much-needed repairs to their processors and the replacement of batteries for said processors.

On Thursday, 3 November 2022, the handover to the Cape Town patients, including Lister, took place at the Tygerberg Hospital Cochlear Implant Unit. 

The handover to patients in Bloemfontein occurred on Friday, 18 November 2022. 

"There are so many people out there that have hearing problems and, unfortunately, while the technology is great, it is also expensive," McKay said during the handover.

"Understanding hearing loss myself, it is a pleasure for us, as a foundation, to assist whoever we can, however we can. It is very heartwarming to see the expression of gratitude on people's faces when they can hear again!"

With an upgraded processor, Lister can hear clearly and continues to do exceptionally well in all aspects of life, considering all the factors against her.

Watch the 12-year-old's poetic performance of This is Me in the video, a poem that celebrates who she is.

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