IM this article to a friend!

January 25, 2003

Something to shout about

From: ICNewcastle, UK - 25 Jan 2003

By Amanda Crook, The Journal

Rebecca French lived in a completely silent world until she was four years old, but now - thanks to a pioneering implant - the 11-year-old has just passed a raft of speech and drama exams.

When Rebecca was born she was so profoundly deaf that if a jet plane had taken off next to her she would have felt the vibrations but heard nothing.

As a small child she learned sign language and attended the Northern Counties School for the Deaf, but did not speak or make any sounds.

Aged four she was one of the first children to be fitted with an artificial hearing device, sometimes called a bionic ear, inside her ear, at the Queen's Medical Centre in Nottingham. When the device was turned on Rebecca, from Durham City, was so shocked that she burst into tears, but it has transformed her life so much so that she is now able to attend a mainstream school.

Her mother Hillary, a head teacher, said: "The transformation in Rebecca has been remarkable, we have so much to thank the doctors for. We got out some old videos of Rebecca a few weeks ago and it really brought home to us how far she has come. She has had to work very hard because she was so far behind all her peers but the results have been fantastic - her success has been exponential.

"She has come so far that as a family joke her Dad offers to pay her to be quiet now."

A microphone which fits on the back of Rebecca's ear picks up sounds and converts them into an electrical signal. The signal passes through the skin to the implant which transforms the signal to electrical pulses which stimulate hearing nerve fibres.

Her operation opened the way for implants in even younger children. "Bionic ears" are now being fitted for children as young as 18 months.

When Rebecca learnt to hear she began to speak quickly but she had to go through the process of sound formation and for a few weeks she was only able to make baby sounds.

Hillary said: "And now there's no stopping her, she is really going for it. She recently took her grade III prose and poetry exams.

"She had to choose some reading and some poetry and act it out for the judges. I'm so proud of her.

Rebecca's story will be featured on Living Pulse, Discovery Health Channel, January 29 at 11:30pm.

© owned by or licensed to Trinity Mirror Plc 2003