CIMF 2018 Masthead

Loud Shirt Day: Oliver’s Story

Wendy Johnson

On 16 October, Clare Steve wants you to get loud for her son Oliver. Here’s why…

Oliver was only a few days old when Clare discovered something was wrong. As her happy family was leaving the hospital to settle in at home, the hospital performed a mandatory SWISH test. Oliver didn’t pass.

At first, it wasn’t an urgent cause for concern since up to 40 per cent of newborns fail the state-wide infant screening hearing test for a range of ‘normal’ reasons. But Oliver failed four tests over 22 days and was diagnosed as having profound hearing loss in one ear and severe hearing loss in the other.

oliver under sheets

To put this in perspective, Clare explains that a jet engine taking off about 30 metres above your head is around 120 decibels. The limit of the hospital testing is 100 decibels. The extent of Oliver’s problem was deafening.

“Our baby was perfect other than that he couldn’t hear,” says Clare. “Lots of babies have worse problems, so we were lucky that way. But we knew Oliver would need to live and cope in a hearing world. We wanted him to live a normal life.”

The SWISH test was one of many that Oliver, who is now one, has been through.

Despite the initial alarm bells, Oliver had cochlear implants placed in both ears at the tender age of five months. The surgery in Sydney took four-and-a-half hours and Oliver was literally ‘switched on’ five days after the surgeons had finished their complex and delicate work.

Oliver at switch on

Oliver at switch on

While there’s still a lot to do, including daily intensive audio-verbal therapy (people with cochlears have to be taught how to hear), Oliver will live his life without having to rely on sign language.

One thing Clare knows is that her family is travelling through this journey thanks to the support of many experts, including audiologists and speech pathologists.

Clare is very vocal about the amazing and kind support the Steves’ continue to receive from The Shepherd Centre, which works tirelessly in Canberra to give deaf children a voice.


On Friday 16 October everyone at The Shepherd Centre will get loud – they want you do so too – by hosting your very own Loud Shirt Day, an annual event that helps the not-for-profit charitable organisation raise much needed funds for its early intervention programs and services to children who are deaf and hearing impaired.

Oliver at 10 months wearing his hearing henry

Loud Shirt Day you ask?

Yup. This is your excuse to wear your brightest, most colourful and even most garish clothes—stripes, florals, polka dots or paisley—and raise money for The Shepherd Centre’s important work.

You can participate on your own or organise a fundraising activity such as a morning tea, lunch, fashion show, walk or some form of get together, with everyone wearing clothing with colour and pizzazz.

All you have to do is register online. The Loud Shirt Day folks will then send you a kit, including posters, to help you along. All funds raised will stay in the ACT.

“It costs about $18,000 a year to give Oliver the speech therapy he needs and family members the support they need to help,” says Clare, “The Shepherd Centre requires about another $1 million to service all the needs in Canberra and New South Wales. So it’s a really important cause.”

While the official date for Loud Shirt Day 2015 is Friday 16 October, you can choose another date if that suits you better.

Get as wild and crazy as you’d like. Flashiest frock competition perhaps? Hawaiian shirt raffle? Whatever you do get loud, have fun, raise funds and help deaf kids tell their mums and dads they love them.


How do cochlear implants work?

A cochlear implant is an electronic medical device that does the work of damaged parts of the inner ear (cochlea) to provide sound signals to the brain.

It has two parts. An internal part called the cochlear implant and an external part called a speech processor.

The speech processer uses two small microphones to pick up sounds. It turns those sounds into signals and sends them to a transmitter.

The transmitter sends the signals through the skin to the internal implant, which then converts the coded signals into electrical energy and sends them to the electrode array. This stimulates the nerve fibres in the cochlea and the signals are recognised by the brain as sound.

Keep up with Loud Shirt Day


Wendy Johnson

Wendy Johnson graduated with a Master’s Degree in Journalism from Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada, a few decades ago. She’s been living in Australia since 1995, having fallen in love with eucalypt trees and kangaroos. Wendy is passionate about Canberra and all the nation’s capital has to offer. She loves to write (about everything and anything) and owns her own pr and advertising business. More about the Author

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