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December 24, 2002


From: Exeter Express, UK - 24 Dec 2002

Christmas will be extra-special for nine-year-old Isobelle Rowsell this year - for the first time ever she will be able to enjoy all the sounds of the festivities.

Last year the Exeter youngster was oblivious to carol singing and Christmas music, but thanks to a revolutionary cochlear implant, tomorrow she will be able to hear them all.

And the thing she is looking forward to most is the sound of the wrapping paper as she rips open her gifts.

Isobelle, who lives with mother Jenny in Whipton Barton Road, is the fourth generation of her family to be born totally deaf. But this year the Countess Wear Combined School pupil, who last week took part in a festive play, is looking forward to Christmas Day more than ever before.

"I'm looking forward to the sound of the wrapping paper being ripped. It will be the first time I have heard that," said Isobelle, who has just returned from a mini-cruise to Spain, paid for as a Christmas treat by dad Terry.

"I want to hear the bang of the crackers as well.

"The implant is the best present ever. I wouldn't be able to hear anything without it."

Isobelle, whose favourite carol is Good King Wenceslas, hopes to receive lots of books for Christmas.

"I'm a bookworm, so I want books. I want to carve the turkey as well, but I don't want any sprouts," she said.

Since having the implant fitted in Nottingham earlier this year, Isobelle, who wants to be a vet when she is older, has also gradually gained the ability to speak and increased in confidence. She now has regular speech therapy at school and at last week's play she even performed a specially composed song, Sheik, Rattle and Roll.

She also enjoys listening to her favourite band S Club and can enjoy the birds singing, watch the television, and hear her dog Pepper and budgie Tweety Pie.

Mother Jenny said: "I'm just so happy. It's going to be the best Christmas for her.

"Two years ago we went to Lapland and we really enjoyed that. We visited Santa's village and post office, went on a sleigh ride and drank reindeer milk, but this Christmas is going to be even more special.

"I'm really looking forward to it because she will hear so much more. She can hear things now and explain to us what they sound like. We never realised how much we miss.

"Before the implant she had a hearing aid and had difficulty hearing anything. She told me that she wanted to have an implant because she had seen other people with them and wanted to hear like them, so we supported her. Before the implant she was withdrawn and quiet, but now she is much happier. She is a real chatterbox and she loves putting music on and dancing to it."

Isobelle's father, St Thomas resident Terry Drewett, who is also deaf, said: "She will be able to hear all the Christmas music on television, which will be nice. I paid for her to go to Spain before Christmas as a treat because she has done so well this year. She's been really good. It's great to see her do so well and be so happy."

Isobelle's cochlear implant directly stimulates her auditory nerve, by-passing damaged cells to provide the sensation of hearing.

The external part of the implant consists of a speech processor which can sit behind the ear or be worn on the body, a lead, a transmitter coil and a microphone.

The internal part is surgically implanted under the skin behind the ear and includes the receiver and a number of electrodes that directly stimulate the auditory nerve.

A few weeks after the fitting of an implant a microphone and speech processor are provided, and these are gradually tuned to meet an individual's needs. An implant team, professionals and speech therapists then provide long-term support.

The Ear Foundation can be contacted at Marjorie Sherman House, 83 Sherwin Road, Lenton, Nottingham, NG7 2FB, or by telephoning 0115 9421985.

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