A year after receiving cochlear implants, 18-month-old Evan Mehlhopt uses more than 50 words and is starting to join sentences together. Evan, who is profoundly deaf, now tracks above average for his age group in speech and listening. He lives in Blenheim with big sister April and parents Joymarie and David, who are blown away by his progress.

“It is absolutely unbelievable. To think at one point he may not be able to speak, and to now hear him talk is so amazing,” says Joymarie.

Evan’s hearing loss was picked up during a newborn hearing check. With no family history of hearing loss the diagnosis came as a shock. “It was devastating, it was so unexpected,” says Joymarie. “It was a big thing for us to take on board, and we were not familiar with cochlear implants at the time of Evan’s diagnosis.

Evan Mehlhopt

“Evan’s ear, nose and throat specialist referred us to the Southern Cochlear Implant Programme (SCIP), and the team ran through all of our options. They were very supportive and understanding and we were able to talk to another family who had been through the process. It soon became clear that cochlear implants were going to be the best path for Evan.”

The Mehlhopt family travelled to Christchurch for Evan’s cochlear implant surgery in October 2020, when Evan was just six months old.

“We met with surgeon Phil Bird before the surgery, which was really reassuring. When it came to the day of the operation we were very informed and knew what to expect, which made it a lot easier,” says Joymarie.

Five days after surgery, Evan’s cochlear implants were switched on at SCIP’s Wellington clinic.

“It was pretty amazing to see his little face when the implants were switched on. His eyes widened and he was looking around, he definitely noticed something,” says Joymarie. All cochlear implant recipients require ongoing habilitation and assessment, therefore SCIP continues to play a key role in Evan’s cochlear implant journey.

“SCIP is still a huge part of our lives, and the team is amazing. We are very thankful,” says Joymarie.