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New Zealand’s First Cochlear Implant Gold Medalist


For immediate release

29th August 2012

New Zealand’s First Cochlear Implant Gold Medalist

Impossible is nothing to Waka Ama paddler Vesna Radonich, New Zealand’s first Cochlear Implant recipient to win Gold and become the open woman Waka Ama World Champion.

Vesna competed in the Waka Ama World Championships in Calgary, Canada this month, beating out a strong field of international paddlers to claim Gold for New Zealand.

“I never seen myself as being the best in the world, but I have an insatiable drive to win, and I never wanted my hearing impairment to hold me back or define who I am. I believe my accomplishments on the water are muchmore a reflection of the person I am and have become,” says Vesna.

Born with a progressive hearing loss, Vesna lost her hearing completely in her right ear last year and often describes how she went ‘sound sniffing’ to find out where and what noises were. That all changed earlier this year when she received a cochlear implant to restore her hearing.

“I never realized just how much I was missing,” she says, “One coach even told me I was uncoachable! She probably did me a big favour that day, because I have never been so determined to prove someone wrong. Now I just want to mentor and encourage other young athletes and let them know, you can achieve.”

Vesna’s tremendous show of determination to succeed has meant she has had overwhelming success in the sport of Waka Ama. With five New Zealand Gold Medals and a world championship Gold medal she is clearly the undisputed best in the world.

“Being the first New Zealand Cochlear Implant recipient and first woman to become the open woman champion in Waka Ama, I’m so happy to be able to help and mentor others on their hearing journey and to achieve their dreams. As an ambassador for the Pindrop Foundation (who support adults needing a cochlear implant), I only hope my story helps them hold onto hope.”

- ENDS -

Notes to Editor:

1. The Pindrop Foundation is a New Zealand charity supporting severely hearing impaired adults into a hearing world through cochlear implant technology and services

2. A cochlear implant is different from a hearing aid. Hearing aids turn up the volume by amplifying sounds to make them easier for damaged ears to detect. Cochlear implants bypass the damaged portions of the ear and directly stimulate the hearing (auditory) nerve.

3. According to the World Health Organization, exposure to excessive noise is the major avoidable cause of permanent hearing loss worldwide [1997]. Experts agree that exposure to sound levels over 85 decibels will damage hearing over time.

4. Music played at clubs, gigs and bars can be well over this level. As a guide, if a person has to shout to be heard by someone two meters away, the music could be dangerously loud if they areexposed to it regularly or for a long time.

5. Listening to an MP3 Player at high volumes over time can cause permanent damage to hearing.

6. Noise induced hearing loss is reaching epidemic proportions with up to 1 in 6 people affected by hearing loss. ( Accessed October 2nd 2011)

7. 10% of us (400,000) are exposed to dangerous levels of noise on a regular basis. ( Accessed October 2nd 2011)

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