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October 24, 2002

Jonah set to hear mum out

From: Canberra Times, Australia
Oct. 24, 2002


Six-month-old Jonah Roberts is set to become the second-youngest child in Australia to undergo surgery to enable him to hear his mother say "I love you" for the first time.

The baby boy from Giralang, who is profoundly deaf, will be fitted with a cochlear implant today.

The bionic ear produces the sensation of hearing by electronically stimulating nerves inside the inner ear.

His parents Rachelle and David are confident the surgery will be a success.

"When I found out he was deaf, some of things that mattered to me the most was that he wouldn't hear me say 'I love you', or that he wouldn't hear the name that I've given him, or that he wouldn't hear running water," Rachelle said.

"Things like that just mattered to me. I know he'd cope without it but I guess this is just the decision we made to give him the best outcome in the hearing community."

Jonah was born on April 7 at Calvary Hospital.

Midwife Karen Latham immediately noticed the Roberts's first child had a white forelock, which is an indicator of Waardenberg Syndrome, a condition associated with hearing loss.

The Roberts were referred to a paediatrician who confirmed Jonah, then aged six weeks, was profoundly deaf.

Rachelle said, "I guess by that stage we already had our suspicions and we tested him.

"We made as many loud noises as we could and nothing worked but it was kind of shock."

The Roberts pay tribute to the midwife, saying Jonah's hearing problem may have been undetected for years without Ms Latham's keen observation skills.

Rachelle, a nurse, and David, who works in retail, looked into Jonah's options after learning of his condition.

They spoke to a couple whose child had received a cochlear implant and a friend in the deaf community before they decided Jonah should have the bionic ear fitted.

They have drawn strength from the support of family, friends, their church, Calvary Hospital, the Australian Hearing Centre and education department which sends out a teacher every week to teach Rachelle to play with Jonah.

The Roberts headed to Westmead Children's Hospital in Sydney yesterdayahead of Jonah's scheduled two-hour procedure today.

The bionic ear will be hooked up in three weeks' time and the Roberts believe it will give Jonah the best chance to develop language skills.

Charity organisation Sydney Cochlear Implant Centre raised funds to pay for the $60,000 operation which includes $20,000 for the device.

The NSW Government pays for 15 cochlear implant operations a year.

Anyone who wants to make a donation to the Sydney Cochlear Implant Centre can telephone 9817 0011.

© Copyright 2000 Canberra Times