Three-year-old gets gift of hearing

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Three-year-old gets gift of hearing

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Three-year-old Park So-min smiles at the camera. She was born with a hearing impairment but underwent cochlear implant surgery on April 18 thanks to financial support provided by customers of Hyundai Department Store. By Kim Ki-hwan

Hope for Park So-min, a 3-year-old girl with a serious hearing impairment, came in the form of a cochlear implant she received last month. The surgery opened a whole new world to the child, who was diagnosed with congenital hearing loss at birth.

Since undergoing surgery on April 18 at Samsung Medical Center in Irwon-dong, southern Seoul, Park’s hearing has improved dramatically, according to her mother. Just two weeks after the procedure, she was found to be energetically playing the xylophone.

“My daughter’s hearing ability has improved by leaps compared to the old times when she used to wear a hearing aid,” said Kwak Hye-yeong, Park’s mother. “Although she has not completely recovered from the surgery, she now better understands sounds and is able to speak a few words occasionally.”

Park’s family is of modest means, with four people living together in a small apartment about 60 square meters (645.8 square feet) in size.

“It has been extremely difficult for my husband to pay for our daughter’s medical expenses, including surgery and rehabilitation, all on his own,” Kwak said. “Also, it broke my heart whenever my young daughter complained that she did not want to wear a hearing aid.”

Park’s surgery was made possible with financial support from roughly 15,000 customers of Hyundai Department Store, who donated their gift certificates during a special charity event last November held to benefit hearing-impaired children.

“The hit Korean movie ‘Dogani’ [‘The Crucible’], a movie based on a true story of children abused at school due to hearing impairment, shed light on hearing-impaired children in Korea,” explained an official from Hyundai Department Store. “It was all the more meaningful because our customers all came together to donate their Hyundai Department Store gift certificates, which can be used like cash at our stores.” The department store matched the 85 million won ($74,500) donated by customers so that a total of 170 million won went to fund surgeries for children from low-income families.

Park, whose family received 5 million won, was the first beneficiary of the program.

“This was the best Children’s Day gift for my daughter. It brought her hearing back and gives her a fighting chance at pursuing her dreams in the future,” her mother said. “I will never forget such kindness, and I will live the rest of my life helping others.”

Jo Yeoung-woon, director of a support group for the hearing impaired, emphasized the importance a sense of hearing has in a child’s growth.

“Hearing is one of the most important senses for developing children’s intelligence since it is directly related to speaking ability,” Jo said. “It is crucial to have surgery as soon as possible to recover a child’s hearing ability to enable the child’s intelligence to develop properly.”

The Hyundai Department Store program will provide free cochlear implant surgeries to 34 more children ages 1 to 6.
By Kim Ki-hwan [enational@joongang.co.kr]
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