Deaf celebrity, influencer and proud cochlear implant user Tasha Ghouri met deaf children and young people on Wednesday, February 21st, to share her inspiring story and hear how they are challenging perceptions of what young deaf people can achieve.

Auditory Verbal UK, which supports deaf children learn to listen and speak with Auditory Verbal therapy, hosted the event in London ahead of International Cochlear Implant Day (February 25th).  Tasha, who was joined by her Dad Tarek, heard directly from young deaf people about the difference early and effective support has made to them and their families. 

Deaf young people including Lauren Press (17) who was born profoundly deaf and had her first cochlear implant aged two and her second at six. Lauren was supported by Auditory Verbal therapy at AVUK, to make sense of the sound she receives from her cochlear implants and learn to listen and talk like her hearing friends. Currently studying for her A Levels, Lauren has starred in a CBBC television drama, shared her story with MPs at the House of Commons and last year won an award for the deaf young person who has gone above and beyond to demonstrate that deaf children can achieve their potential. 

Lauren said: “It is inspiring to meet Tasha who is showing that as young deaf people we can and will do anything we set our minds too. She is such an amazing role model having someone wearing a cochlear implant in the public eye and talking proudly about being deaf is fantastic. People are often surprised when I say I am deaf and don’t expect me to be able to listen and speak or do the same things as other teenagers. But just as Tasha is doing, I’m determined to dispel these misconceptions and to raise awareness that with early and effective support deaf children can be their best in life.”

Tasha said: “I was thrilled to meet these deaf young children and their families, who also share the belief that being deaf doesn’t stop you from achieving your dreams.

“We need to change attitudes about what deaf children and young people can do and I’m delighted that I had the chance to hear about the dream and ambitions they have as well as talking to them about my experiences and how I was supported on my hearing journey.”

Sisters Sade (24) and Topaz (22) Oram, from Gloucestershire, were both diagnosed as profoundly deaf soon after birth and wear cochlear implants. The sisters now both work as early years teachers. Sade said: “I am proud to be deaf and proud of what both myself and my sister have achieved because of the support we had as young children with Auditory Verbal therapy and of course our family. 

“People like Tasha not only inspire me but are also a public face proving being deaf does not have to be a barrier to success, goals and aspirations. Like Tasha I am never held back by being deaf. I love travelling to new places - going skiing in the winter and going to different music festivals in the summer. I'm always looking for a new adventure!”

And her sister Topaz, who also works in early years education, added: “Challenging perceptions about the abilities and opportunities for deaf children and young people is so important to me, my sister and our whole family. Hearing how Tasha was supported to think and dream big as well as listening to her Dad’s experience of supporting his daughter to aim high has inspired us to continue showing just what we can do and campaigning for more early and effective support.”

Tasha also met deaf opera singer, Janine Roebuck, patron of charity Auditory Verbal UK, who started to experience hearing loss aged 18 and had cochlear implants in July 2019.

Auditory Verbal UK Chief Executive Anita Grover, who is also a cochlear implant user, said: “It was wonderful to welcome Tasha and her Dad, hear about their journey as well as introduce them to inspiring deaf children, young people and their families who, like Tasha, are challenging those low perceptions and expectations that still, sadly, exist. Inspiring deaf role models are vital to support young deaf people with their own ambitions, but also bring more awareness and understanding of what is possible with early and effective support whether families use sign language, spoken language or both.”

“Perceptions and expectations of what deaf children can achieve are really outdated and far too low, including many not knowing that deaf children can learn to speak as well as a hearing child. We know that with early and effective support to develop language and communication, deaf children can and do have the same opportunities in life as their hearing peers. And early, effective support should be available to all deaf children, whether they use sign language, spoken language or both.

Auditory Verbal therapy helps deaf children process sound they receive from hearing technology, like hearing aids and cochlear implants, and supports them to develop language so they can learn to talk like their hearing friends. It is a specialist, evidence-based approach, with recent research by AVUK, backed up by international evidence, showing that 80% of deaf children, like Lauren, Sade and Topaz, who attend Auditory Verbal therapy sessions for at least two years achieve the same level of spoken language as their hearing peers, rising to 97% of children without additional needs.

But only 90% of deaf children who could benefit from Auditory Verbal therapy are currently able to access it, as there is little to no provision through publicly funded services.

AVUK #HearUsNow campaign wants every family with a deaf child to have the option to access Auditory Verbal therapy through publicly funded services in their local area. It is calling on the Government to make an investment of £21.5million over the next 10 years, so services for deaf children can be transformed and unlock economic benefits of £152million, rising to £11.7billion over 50 years.