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January 27, 2003

Pioneering ear implant helps Rebeccs overcome deafness

From: This is The Northeast - 27 Jan 2003

REBECCA FRENCH has overcome profound deafness to pass a string of speech and drama exams, with the help of a pioneering ear implant.

The 11-year-old, who lived in a world of silence until the age of four, learned sign language and attended the Northern Counties School for the Deaf. She was unable to speak or make any sounds.

At the age of four, Rebecca was on of the first children to be fitted with an artificial hearing device.

She was so surprised when it was turned on that she burst into tears.

After first making only baby sounds, Rebecca began to speak quickly and went on to attend mainstream school.

Her mother, Hillary, of Durham City, said: "The transformation in Rebecca has been remarkable. We have so much to thank the doctors for."

The bionic ear comprises a microphone which fits on the back of Rebecca's ear. It picks up sound waves and converts them into an electrical signal.

The signal then passes through the skin to the implant, which turns it to electrical pulses which stimulate the hearing nerve fibres.

Mrs French, who is a headteacher, said: "She has had to work very hard because she was so far behind all her peers, but the results have been fantastic.

"Now there is no stopping her. She recently took her grade three prose and poetry exams.

"She had to choose some reading and some poetry and act it out for the judges."

Rebecca's operation paved the way for implants in even younger children, with implants now being fitted in children as young as 18 months.

Rebecca's story will be featured on Living Pulse, on the Discovery Health Channel at 11.30pm on Wednesday.

© Copyright 2003 Newsquest Media Group - A Gannett Company