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Radio star Brad Watson's family shock

Finding out his son was deaf was a shock for the music-loving Hits host, but with a little help, their family life is back in tune!

It's fair to say that radio star Brad Watson – co-host of The Hits Drive alongside Laura McGoldrick – is a music super-fan who has turned his passion into a broadcasting career spanning 24 years.
But now that he's a father of two young children with his partner Kim, it's family that has become the all-time number one of his life.

And along with all the responsibilities and joys of fatherhood, Brad, 39, also wants to share the thrills of music with his daughter Piper, two, and nine-month-old son Finn. But while Wiggles fan Piper is well on her way to appreciating the perfect pop tune, Finn will never hear music the way his dad does.
Finn was diagnosed as deaf on the very day he was born last October. A series of tests since then have confirmed his condition as moderate to severe, something he shares with the 135 to 170 babies born congenitally deaf each year in Aotearoa.
Finn's diagnosis triggered a rollercoaster of emotions for his mum and dad, ranging from initial waves of anxiety to a steadier optimism, especially since their sunny, smiley boy was first fitted with hearing aids when he was three months old.
Finn hasn't stopped smiling since getting his aids.
Since then, they have received so much professional support, Brad is taking their story public in the hope it will reassure families in a similar situation.
"All newborns get the day-one test," he tells Woman's Day. "They put a little device on Finn's head and sent a signal, and he failed that. The nurse thought he might have fluid in his ears because he was overdue, so they tested the second day and he failed again. So we went along to Starship just before Christmas, when they found that, yes, he was hard of hearing."
His voice cracking with emotion at the memory, Brad continues, "We had made ourselves ready for the fact it might not be a perfect outcome. But we all cried – well, Finn didn't cry! For me, music has taken me around the world.
It's kept me in a job and it's everything to me. It's my therapy, and it's how I relax and reset, so to know he won't hear music the way I do upsets me."
Brad's long CV includes a 16-year stint at The Edge in Auckland and, more recently, four years at Virgin Radio in Dubai, where he met Kim, who is from Scotland. Two years ago, they came home to New Zealand, where Kim gave birth to Piper and Brad resumed work at The Edge.
Unfortunately, the arrival of COVID in March 2020 led to Brad's redundancy. But three days later, NZME offered him a job at Flava, before he moved into his presenting role at The Hits after 10 years off the air.
Finn's condition has given Brad a new perspective on his life priorities and he has the highest praise for the staff at Starship children's hospital.
"Starship has been amazing – we knew we were in good hands," he raves. "Five weeks after his diagnosis, we saw the audiologist and he said, 'He's going to get an aid and it's going to be alright.'"
Despite COVID restrictions, Brad was able to go into the clinic to film Finn's first fitting for the Hits podcast Finn's Hearing Aid Journey. He remembers, "The second the aids were put on and they turned them on, we were just overjoyed for Finn. We could see the reaction. He started making all these noises and laughing."
Finn and his family will receive fully funded care until he turns 18, including their very own case worker from the Ministry of Education. In the meantime, all of the family is taking free sign language lessons with First Signs.

When Finn goes to preschool, he'll be protected from harmful noise levels by monitoring devices installed by Foundation for the Deaf offshoot Sound Monkeys, which measures decibel levels in classrooms across the country. But the fundamentals are down to the family.
"A lot of it is how we speak to him," explains Brad. "He's not as vocal as Piper was. We have to make sure our mouths are facing him and that we're not mumbling. We have started learning the signs for 'eating', 'finished' and all these signs to do with food because he is such a messy eater!"
Beaming, he adds, "We're not worried at all. We think he is going to be a normal little boy."
And, yes, Finn is getting into music. Dolly Parton's classic Joleen – which is "Piper's favourite song", the proud dad notes – was the first tune he ever heard. "It was such a cool moment. Right now, he loves that Fleetwood Mac song Everywhere, especially the twinkling sounds at the start. I'm going to make sure he's got the best headphones growing up!"

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