Alex O'Brien


Deaf girl can hear under water

Deaf girl can hear under water

Katya Gardiner used to have to swim with big bags billowing around her ears. 

Now the deaf eight-year-old looks just the same as other children in the water. 

The Khandallah School pupil was born with no hearing and has cochlear Implants, surgically implanted electronic devices that provide a sense of sound to a person who is profoundly deaf or severely hard of hearing.

Until recently, the implants could not be used under water without bags to keep them dry.

That all changed when Katya received funding from the Halberg Disability Sport Foundation's all sports activity fund for an aqua + accessory – a device that protects her cochlear Implants. 

Katya's father, Sym Gardiner, said it had opened up the opportunity for her to swim and do the sort of messy activities other children did. 

"Before she basically had a plastic bag that went over it," he said. 

"They would float off because there was air inside. It was also clumsy and made a scrunching sound." 

"But it's not just swimming. For school if they go off and do rafting or anything where there is lots of splashing, we can slap these on. With the bags we couldn't have really done that." 

Katya said she liked it because it meant she could do sports. 

Sym said it also made it easier for his daughter to fit in. 

"Now it's less obvious. You can barely see it."

It was an example of how technology had changed the lives of deaf children. 

"Now there are no limits for these kids. That's a big change, because 20 years ago there were."

Sym said the accessory cost about $700, $100 of which was paid for by the family. 

The Halberg foundation offers grants to physically disabled young people to help overcome the financial barriers that prevent them from participating in sport and recreation.

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