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Hard-of-hearing family receives support

2024-07-08 10:11:08Source: China DailyAuthor: Zou Shuo


Zhang Yongsheng talks with his daughter Zhang Yuhan near his stall in Changsha, Hunan province, on May 15. CHEN ZHENHAI/XINHUA


July 8, 2024 -- Zhang Yongsheng and his wife Zhan Jingwen are both hard of hearing, and when they decided to have a baby, they underwent genetic testing to make sure their child would not have the same disability.


Though the results indicated otherwise, their daughter, Zhang Yuhan, was also born hard of hearing.


Zhan said Yuhan first said the word "mom" when she was a little over a year old. Although she could not hear the sound, she understood from the movement of Yuhan's mouth that she was calling her.


"As a mother, I really did not want our daughter to be like us. I've blamed myself and have felt disappointed many times," she said.


The family initially struggled a great deal. And then one day, one of their customers changed their lives.


The couple run a snack stall at the Sifangping night market in Changsha, Hunan province. Though they don't earn much money, they managed to purchase a cochlear implant for their daughter's left ear and a hearing aid for her right ear when she was 2 years old, thanks to support from their relatives and friends.


At their stall, the couple sold what they call "silent egg waffles". A note on the stall said that they are hard of hearing, so customers could simply point to the flavors they wanted.


They could only communicate with their customers via hand gestures and by typing words on their phones. Yuhan, now 5, sometimes helped them by interacting with customers on their behalf in halting speech.


In January, a vlogger named Cai Cai posted a video of himself buying an egg waffle from the couple's stall on the short-video platform Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok.


In the video, the girl told Cai Cai that her parents could not hear him and thanked him for buying waffles. She told him that she has a cochlear implant and a hearing aid.


When asked why only she has the devices, Zhang told the vlogger they were very expensive, so the family could only afford them for their child.


"It's OK for us not to hear, but our daughter must," he said using his phone.


The video became an instant hit on Douyin, garnering millions of views. It led many netizens to visit the stall and offer the couple their support.


Some even learned a bit of sign language to help the couple understand them, while others would secretly overpay for their waffles.


"I felt touched and happy, but also sad, because it is not easy for anyone to make money," Zhang said of the supporters' kindness.


In January, the couple received a donation of hearing aids — one from a netizen in Guangdong province and another from a company in Changsha called Cheer Hearing. The gift allowed Zhang to hear his daughter calling him "dad" for the first time on his 31st birthday.


In March, with assistance from a cochlear implant manufacturer, Zhang, Zhan and Yuhan each underwent implant surgery in Shanghai. Both Zhang and Zhan each received one cochlear implant, while their daughter received her second.


After nearly a month of recuperation, their cochlear implants were turned on and all three of them spoke to each other for the first time.


"Can you hear me?" Yuhan asked.


"Yes, I can," Zhang replied.


The couple have been taking speech lessons in Changsha, and they hope they will soon be able to communicate better with Yuhan.


Now that they can hear, they have changed the name of their snack to "audible egg waffles".


As Yuhan prepares to attend primary school next year, the couple are striving to make more money to pay off their debts and buy an apartment in Changsha.


"I want to tell people who are just like us to not lose hope," Zhang said. "I hope I am able to help others with disabilities in the future. I will not forget the help I have received from others, and I will pass on that kindness."