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July 30, 2002

Implanted Device May Restore Boy's Hearing

From: WCVB-TV, MA - 30 Jul 2002

BOSTON -- He'd probably settle for hearing that was pretty good, but he won't have to. Thanks to powerful new technology and an extraordinary gift, a 10-year old Haverhill, Mass., boy with severe hearing loss on one side should have perfect hearing.

NewsCenter 5's Heather Unruh said that Richard Morrill had surgery to implant a new hearing aid Friday.

Morrill doesn't intentionally tune people out -- he just doesn't hear them. More than anything, he wants to be normal

"I just want to hear again," Morrill said.

Morrill lost most of the hearing in his right ear when surgeons removed a non-cancerous tumor and with it most of his hearing mechanism.

Remarkably, his doctor said that he doesn't need it. What he needs is a BAHA, or bone anchored hearing aid -- a new implantable device that helps sound reach the ear nerves.

"This is a device that bypasses the ear canal, the ear drum, the little bones in the ear and directly stimulates the hearing organ or the cochlea inside the skull," Lahey Clinic Dr. Peter Catalano said.

It was FDA-approved for kids 2 years ago, and Richard just became the first child at Lahey Clinic to get it.

Catalano surgically implanted a titanium screw in the bone behind his ear -- where later the hearing device will literally snap on and restore normal sound.

The surgery lasts just 30 minutes, but Morrill won't know for 4 to 6 months whether it will completely reverse his hearing loss.

"The bone and the titanium screw have to have a union, and that union takes time in children," Catalano said. "(Morrill's) fine. Everything went perfectly well."

Morrill was back on his feet within hours, anticipating what's to come.

"I know it will give me back full hearing," Morrill said.

He said that he couldn't wait to snap on the button-size device that will vibrate un-noticeably behind his ear.

"It will work immediately -- instantaneously. He'll hear absolutely perfectly normal in that ear," Catalano said.

When The Lahey Clinic learned Morrill's family couldn't afford the $8,000 procedure, they donated all services. They said the lifetime hearing benefit was worth the cost.

Copyright 2002 by TheBostonChannel. All rights reserved.