Kiwi cochlear implant recipients share heartfelt thank you video


professor Graeme clark

Cochlear implant recipients from across New Zealand are celebrating the lifetime achievements of the Australian pioneer of the multi-channel cochlear implant, Professor Graeme Clark today as he launches his memoir, ‘I want to fix ears,’ on International Cochlear Implant Day.

Kiwis whose lives have been changed by Professor Clark’s innovation, have come together to create a heartfelt thank you video to him, where over 30 recipients have shared some of their most precious, and sometimes entertaining, life changing moments since receiving their cochlear implant. 

42-year-old Cameron Petersen from Tauranga who received his cochlear implant in 2015 recorded his engaging and entertaining message to Professor Clark while fishing from his Jet Ski in Tauranga, “I’d just like to say, thank you for fixing my ears, and I have now picked up the passion for jetski fishing because I can hear out here.” 

Over the course of the past 30 years, 1,800 Kiwis affected by a disabling hearing loss have had access to their hearing restored thanks to the innovative genius of Professor Graeme Clark, who faced obstacles, ridicule and opposition from the medical community when he set out to develop the multi-channel cochlear implant.

Kiwi ENT surgeon, Bill Baber was part of the first cochlear implant surgery in New Zealand over 30 years ago, and says “The best thing I’ve ever done in my life is cochlear implant surgery.  It’s restoring people’s self respect, it’s restoring their confidence, their ability to work as well as hugely improving communication with family and friends.  This may have a long-term effect on prevention of Alzheimer’s and senility. It’s amazing! Professor Clark made all this possible through his dogged determination to give the gift of hearing to those living with a severe hearing disability.

“To watch these amazing tribute videos in recognition of his life’s work, and to have played a part in changing the lives of deaf New Zealanders has been the highlight of my life’s work as a surgeon too.”

To date, over 1800 deaf New Zealanders, both adults and children, can hear thanks to the work of Professor Clark. Many more still need access to this life-changing technology, with individual's having waited in excess of two years for an implant. They are hopeful this will change thanks to the government’s election promise to fund an additional 80 implants annually. They are currently still waiting on the delivery of that promise.

Professor Graeme Clark’s memoir, 'I want to fix ears’ is available on Amazon. 

CEO of the Northern Cochlear Implant Trust, Lee Schoushkoff says, “It is wonderful to celebrate the lifetime achievements of Professor Clark who has changed the lives of many people throughout the world. Yet, after 40 years, only 1 in 20 adults are accessing this technology. Those living with a disabling hearing loss deserve better, and I am hopeful that the government will honour its’ election promise of enabling more adults to access this life-changing intervention.”

To view all the messages to Professor Clark visit the page on our website.

About Professor Graeme Clark

  • Inspired by the challenges faced by his father’s deafness; the frustration, anguish, isolation and desire for a greater connection to others, Australian Graeme Clark dedicated his career to providing the gift of hearing to profoundly deaf children and adults.
  • In the mid-1960s, while working as an ear surgeon in Melbourne, Australia, Professor Clark came upon a scientific paper describing how a profoundly deaf person received hearing sensations through electrical stimulation, and in 1967 he began researching the possibility of an electronic, implantable hearing device: a cochlear implant.
  • Colleagues said a cochlear implant wouldn’t work because the inner ear was just too complicated. Others said that there were unknown risks and there was the technological challenge of fitting electrodes into the tiny inner ear.
  • Finally, in 1978, the first cochlear implant surgery took place.
  • Today, hundreds of thousands of severely or profoundly deaf children and adults worldwide have received a cochlear implant from Cochlear. Thanks to his relentless dedication, they’ve all been given the opportunity to interact more fully with their world. 

Cochlear implants in New Zealand and The Pindrop Foundation

  • The Pindrop Foundation is a New Zealand charity supporting access and awareness of cochlear implant technology for adults affected by a severe hearing disability.
  • A cochlear implant is a surgically implanted electronic device that restores hearing for those with profound hearing loss.
  • Most people on the waiting list were not born deaf – they lost their hearing as adults. The onset of total and permanent deafness can happen to anyone at any point.
  • Hearing aids become ineffective when the hearing loss is more than severe. Communication through spoken language becomes impossible. A cochlear implant is the last and only viable treatment that will restore hearing.
  • Public funding for adult cochlear implants in New Zealand first became available in the late 1980’s. However, this consisted of irregular, one-off surgeries (there was no set allocation).
  • An initial permanent base level of 20 adult cochlear implants per year was implemented in 2007. This was increased in 2013, to the current allocation of 40 adult cochlear implants per year. There has been no further increase in base level funding since 2013.
  • Government funding for children is currently meeting demand.