Invercargill 2-year-old Madeline Collard will soon hear the dog barking next door and birds chirping in the trees for the first time, after a life-changing operation this week.
She will also hear her parents' voices for the first time in more than six months after two cochlear implants are inserted on Thursday.
Profoundly deaf, she is believed to be the youngest person in Southland to receive the implants.
Her mother, Vicky Collard, said the operation was "an amazing Christmas present".
A happy, smiley young girl who loves playdough, water and playing with her sister and two brothers, Madeline was independent and took everything in her stride, Mrs Collard said.
"She's a gem . . . she's just really happy and she's always playing and giggling."
Madeline's hearing loss was suspected in her first few weeks but hearing screening for newborns had not yet been introduced in Invercargill so it was not confirmed.
She was referred to an audiologist when she was 6 weeks old and tested regularly.
An audio brain stem response test when she was 18 months old showed severe hearing loss and she was given her first set of hearing aids.
She also received her first pair of glasses and was diagnosed with global developmental delay.
Six months later several cysts were discovered in her head. She will undergo neurosurgery to remove those after her ears are done.
Every morning, Mrs Collard takes Madeline to hydrotherapy, speech therapy or conductive education. Many trips have been made to the Van Asch Deaf Education Centre in Christchurch and specialists in Dunedin.
While Madeline had been approved for the cochlear implants, they were only the beginning of the road, and she would need to learn later what sounds were and how to listen, her parents said. "It's like learning to walk again," dad Mark said.
"She'll have so many other hurdles to get over that we can't do anything about, but we can do something about this."
A single-income family with four children all aged under 6, the Collards need to raise $34,000 because the government funds only one cochlear implant.
The family decided Madeline should have two because having hearing in both ears would improve her ability to socially interact, help her focus on a particular noise rather than being overwhelmed with background noise in a loud crowd, improve her balance and give her a better sense of where sound was coming from, which would keep her safer, Mrs Collard said.
For the Collards, the aim was to give Madeline a better quality of life.
The family have until the end of March to raise the $34,000 and have set up a Facebook page called Ears 4 Maddie with a link to give a little where donations could be made. Trade Me auctions would be organised, including a romantic dinner for two, a photography session and a fancy decorated cake.
"You try to do the best you can for your children. Every little bit will help."
What are cochlear implants? Often referred to as "bionic ears," cochlear implants bypass damaged parts of the ear and stimulate the auditory nerve.
The implant generates signals that are sent to the brain via the auditory nerve.
The brain then recognises those signals as sound.
An external component sits behind the ear and a second part is surgically placed under the skin.