IM this article to a friend!

March 5, 2003

Deaf toddler learns to hear

From: BBC, UK - 05 Mar 2003

A young girl is enjoying her first chance to hear sounds following pioneering treatment to restore her hearing.

Two-year-old Amy Warrington, from Penygroes, near Caernarfon, was fitted with an ear implant at a specialist clinic last month after being born profoundly deaf..

She underwent surgery at the Queen's Medical Centre in Nottingham, the UK's leading centre for cochlear surgery.

This week, Amy made the trip back to Nottingham to have the device switched on for the first time.

But learning to recognise sounds will be a long process says her mother, Wendy Warrington.

"The first sound she heard was a drum being played.

"At first she was afraid and immediately closed her eyes.

"Then as soon as she got used to it, she started jumping around and could hear noise that came from behind her as well," she said.

On this visit, the device was turned to its lowest setting.

She will return three times over the next two months until it is tuned to the full volume.

Speech processor

Children like Amy who are born with hardly any hearing do not benefit from conventional hearing aids but their lives can be transformed by cochlear implants.

The surgery involves inserting electrodes through a tiny 3cm cut behind the ear.

Sounds are picked up by a microphone behind the ear and then passed to a speech processor, which is worn on the body like a personal stereo.

The electronic sounds are then transferred to the cochlear where Amy can interpret them.

Amy needs to wear the processor at all times to make sure she learns to recognise noises as soon as possible.

Enabling her to understand sounds and learn to speak will demand a lot of hard work over the next few months for Mrs Warrington and her husband, Phil.

"We have to play lots of games with her to monitor whether she can hear noises or not and teach her what the sounds mean," said Mrs Warrington.

"It will take six months of hard work before we can see any real difference," she added.

Amy is helped by a teacher of the deaf who teaches her to sign and speak and a speech therapist in Nottingham who she will visit every few months.

"Not every child is suitable for a cochlear implant - so we are delighted it has worked for her," added Mrs Warrington.