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Pia O’Donnell’s Story

June 3rd, 2011 by | Tags: , | 1 Comment »

Pia O’Donnell, who was known as Pia Jeffrey when she first received a cochlear implant at the age of six years old in 1987 in Australia, is known for her appearance on the cover of Graeme Clark’s book, Sounds from Silence, and on the cover of a phone book in Australia, Sydney Telephone Directory.  She was the second child born deaf to receive a cochlear implant.

Pia on the cover of Graeme Clark's book, Sounds from Silence, at the age of six years old when she hears for the first time with a cochlear implant.

Having a cochlear is an amazing experience for a person who have never heard before or had lost hearing in life.

For me, when I was born deaf, I was fitted with hearing aids. When my mum found out I was profoundly deaf, and the hearing aids weren’t working for me as I kept throwing it out because they were hurting my ears.

When Mum found out about the cochlears, she had to constantly ask them to agree to put them on me. She kept pushing and pushing for it. They were very hesitant to do it to me because I was born deaf, and had no memory of sounds. And also I was five years old. My vocabulary consisted of around 25 words. They thought it was too late for me to get one, and because I was a child, it was risky for them to do it because there were nerves where they put the cochlear, and the operation were going for 6 to 7 hours.

But Mum kept pushing for it, she believed that having a cochlear would give me an opportunity to hear much more and able to communicate better in life.

When they finally agreed to do an experiment on me, I had an operation, and 3 weeks later I had my switch on. At first it was very strange sound. I said “Hello… hello… off!” My audiologist turned it off, then I asked her to turn it back on. Again those strange sounds kept coming back.

After few hours of switch on, when we came home, I was experimenting on everything I could see, and make lots of sounds. My favourite sound was flushing water in the toilet! Mum pulled me out of bathroom because I was flushing water so much.

After few months of speech therapy and endless tests with Cochlear and my mum, my vocabulary had shot up to lots of words, I lost counts. My speech had improved fast and quickly I was able communicate well with my family and my friends at school.

I was the second child who was born deaf to receive a cochlear, and made a medical breakthrough.

I am very glad that my mum didn’t give up to give me a fantastic opportunity to hear. I love her for that.

Now, the youngest age for a deaf child to receive an cochlear is 3 months old, and an operation would take 1 to 2 hours.

The young children with bilateral cochlears are doing amazingly well, excelling at school, and making lots of friends, and can talk on phone with no problems!

Anyone who have lost hearing or have deaf children, cochlear would help you/ kids hear well, it takes time but it’s really worth it.

Now i am married to my loving supporting husband, John, and have two children, Larissa and Casey. Larissa is in school, and has perfect hearing. Casey was born deaf, and now wears bilateral cochlears. He’s doing so much better than me!

Pia in the middle with her two friends.

1 Comment

Joanna Cunningham

October 8, 2012 at 10:07 am

Hi Pia!

I am so thrilled to again hear your amazing story. In 1987 I was pregnant with my third child. My husband and I had a pact : I could name any son we had and could name the daughter. I had already named two sons… He had always loved the name “Pia” and hoped to have a daughter so he could name her that. It was a bit strange as Pia is an Italian name and he was not Italian, but I am! I actually wanted to call any daughter we had something else. Not long before our daughter was born, your story was big news. Graeme Clarke had also been one of my university lecturers. When my husband saw your story, he said, “Look, someone stole our name!” At the time, Pia Zadora (I’m sure you have heard of her) was also in the news, but I didn’t want people thinking we named our daughter after her! So, when our daughter finally arrived, we did name her Pia. Throughout the years, people always asked if she was named after the other woman, and I always informed them, “No way! She is named after Pia Jeffrey!” That also gave me an opportunity to tell them who you were and why you were well-known. I am so happy to hear how well you are doing and how happy you are. I know you will be the best support for Casey, as you have been there. You were such a cute kid, and have grown into a beautiful young woman. I can see how vivacious and positive you surely are.

I suddenly lost the hearing in my right ear in February this year – no warning, nothing. The specialists say it could have been a virus or vascular problem, but it is permanent. I wear hearing aids now, which help, but I have had to make many, many adjustments to my life. Even so, I personally know so many people who are much worse off than me, so I cannot complain.

Again, it’s wonderful of you to keep us up-to-date with your story. I wish you every good thing, much joy and success.

Warm regards,
Joanna.