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Deafness no Barrier to Success

26th November 2009

Deafness no Barrier to Success

Tony Tse, a 20-year old Aucklander, is hoping to make life easier for amputees with help from a National Foundation for the Deaf (NFD) scholarship.

The NFD has awarded Tony, who has a severe bilateral hearing loss, with its 2009 Quest for Excellence Scholarship.

The $15,000 Quest for Excellence Scholarship was established by the NFD for post-graduate study. It recognises deaf or hearing impaired people who have overcome the odds to achieve excellence.

Tony, who is currently completing his Bachelor of Engineering in Biomedical Engineering at the University of Auckland, will start his Masters of Engineering next year with the Biomimetics Laboratory at the Auckland Bioengineering Institute.

Biomimetics is the imitation of biological systems to solve problems and develop new technology and Tony is entering a relatively new area of research which will revolve around developing artificial muscles.

“I hope to use artificial muscles to further develop a motor that is soft and non-metalic – more like natural muscles. This will have many and varied applications but my goal is to produce an improved technology for biomedical devices,” says Tony.

“Artificial muscle is a novel and rapidly developing area. Compared to current solutions which are mechanical and complex to control, this approach is potentially biocompatible and has the possibility for self-activation and self-repair. Ultimately, I want to have gained the knowledge necessary to create artificial limbs that will behave with similar, if not better, performance than natural limbs.

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Tony was nine when he underwent a hearing test at primary school and discovered he had a hearing loss. His teacher had noticed he wasn’t learning as well as the other children and struggled with pronunciation, particularly when it came to learning English.

“I just wasn’t hearing the words properly but because I’d lived with it for so long I didn’t actually realise I couldn’t hear. After getting hearing aids, I couldn’t believe how much I had been missing.

“It can be extremely frustrating when you can’t hear and the biggest problem is that people don’t always know you have a hearing loss,” says Tony.

Louise Carroll, General Manager of the NFD says Tony is a fantastic role model for the 450,000 New Zealanders with hearing loss.

“Hearing impaired people face a number of unique challenges. Hearing loss is often labelled the invisible disability, which can make participation in society difficult and can often lead to feelings of anxiety and isolation.

“Tony is a very talented young man who must be applauded for overcoming a number of obstacles to pursue his ambition,” says Ms Carroll

Tony plans to use the $15,000 scholarship to help pay his Masters course fees as well as associated travelling expenses and new hearing aids.


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