For Robyn, Marc and their son Kyle, the 13th of March is a very special date that the family celebrates each year.
“That’s the day [in 2017] his magic ears were switched on for the first time,” says Robyn.
“Switch On Day is such an important milestone for multiple reasons. Not only did it symbolise the official beginning of Kyle’s hearing journey, it was also the day when our fears, worries and concerns were laid to rest, and we could now truly look forward to Kyle’s bright, happy and verbal future,” says Robyn.
“As Kyle gets older and becomes more aware, we also feel it’s important for him to appreciate how fortunate he is to have his cochlear implants, and to celebrate his uniqueness.”
Time to celebrate
Most years, the family has a small gathering to acknowledge the occasion but, for Robyn and her husband Marc, the first year was extra special.
“We were just so thrilled when Kyle’s first hearing birthday came around that it felt right to celebrate such a fantastic milestone.”
“We had a proper party with family and close friends who had been incredibly supportive, as well as people from Cochlear and Kyle’s ear, nose and throat network, including Professor Michael Tong who performed the surgery and Margaret Cheng, Cochlear’s amazing representative here in Asia who has been a godsend.”
Most years, there’s also a special cake – the first one was a rainbow, topped with two ‘magic ears,’ and the latest was a multi-coloured delight created by Robyn’s friend Alison, a designer cake-maker in Hong Kong.
“Her design is based on the rainbow-coloured flowers popularised in pop culture by Japanese artist Takashi Murakami. It felt perfect for Kyle because he has such a sunny disposition and loves all things multi-coloured.
“We always add ‘magic ears’ on to the hearing anniversary cakes. We consciously make it a happy, extra-special day for Kyle to remind him just how wonderful his magic ears are, and how thankful we all are for this miraculous technology,” says Robyn.
Robyn encourages other parents of children with hearing implants to celebrate. “I think it’s particularly crucial for our hearing implant children to be extremely confident and to grow up feeling proud of their implants.”
Promoting awareness of hearing implants
Celebrating a hearing anniversary is a fantastic way to celebrate a child’s uniqueness.
Robyn suggests, “As they grow older, it would also be a good opportunity to include their friends so more children can learn to embrace each other’s differences and understand more about this amazing technology.”
As a record-breaking champion swimmer, Robyn knows the power of positivity and hard work.
“Ever since we learned Kyle was deaf, we’ve always made a point of not treating him as though he were any different, so he has grown up knowing that there is no such word as ‘can’t’ in his vocabulary.”
For her, the celebration runs a little deeper, helping to reinforce Kyle’s resilience.
“Kyle knows that we are so incredibly proud of him and that we all love his magic ears. I hope that this open and honest approach will enable him to build confidence and to feel proud of his cochlear implants.”
Robyn advocates a positive parenting approach, and welcomes the chance to educate others about hearing loss and hearing implants.
“We have taken every opportunity to educate more people about hearing implants…For the most part, children have lots of follow-up questions and we relish the opportunity to tell them more. Here in Asia, it’s especially important to destigmatise these sorts of issues, and to advocate the importance of early intervention,” she says.
For now, there are no plans to stop the annual festivities.
“I think we will keep celebrating for the next few years – or at least for as long as Kyle wants to. He thinks he’s a very lucky boy to have two birthdays each year!”
Do you celebrate your own (or a loved one’s) hearing anniversary? If so, do you celebrate the day of surgery or activation? How do you celebrate? We’d love you to share your story here.