Sage Cloete, 2, learns to speak after cochlear implants

Sage Cloete prior to her cochlear implant surgery at Tygerberg Hospital.

Born with profound hearing loss, 2-year-old Sage Cloete, of Grassy Park, recently underwent cochlear-implant surgery at Tygerberg Hospital.

A cochlear implant is a small electronic device that can provide sound to people who have significant hearing loss. 

Lynn Cloete, of the Carel du Toit Centre for children with hearing impairment, based on the grounds of Tygerberg Hospital, says 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.

Sage was diagnosed at the age of 18 months at Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital. 

She was fitted with hearing aids in January which were of little help due to the severity of her hearing loss. 

She was then referred to Tygerberg Hospital’s cochlear implant unit. Jennifer Perold, audiologist and coordinator of the unit, said Sage had not had newborn hearing screening, which could have diagnosed her hearing loss much earlier and led to her getting an implant sooner. 

There was no time to waste to maximise sound input for brain development and the opportunity to develop spoken language, she said.

Sage’s implant was activated two weeks after she had the surgery, and she is now having weekly online sessions with Carel du Toit speech-language therapist Sue Rumble, learning spoken language using hearing technology and natural learning experiences.

Sage’s mother, Tonia Cloete, thanked Tygerberg Hospital, especially the audiology cochlear implant unit and the ear, nose, and throat department for giving Sage the gift of hearing. “The operation will change Sage’s life forever,” she said.

Ms Penfold said it was a delight to watch Sage growing in confidence and in her awareness of new sounds in her environment. Sage had lost out on 18 months of listening development and would now need extra support for it to develop, she said. 

Due to the hospital’s scaled-down operations during the Covid-19 pandemic, only children and people who have suddenly lost their hearing due to meningitis are considered for cochlear-implant surgery.

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