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February 5, 2004

Implant music to Matt's ears

From: Narromine News and Trangie Advocate, Australia - Feb 5, 2004

Thursday, 5 February 2004

Six-and-a-half-year-old Matt Russell is about to undergo an operation that will "open up his world".

Education department hearing support teacher Lisa Lee said Matt was diagnosed with a profound hearing loss at two years of age but all that will change when he has a cochlear implant on Monday.

"The hair cells within the cochlear that connect to the nerve are damaged which means hearing aids are of minimal use," she said.

"As a result Matt has the language skills of a two and a half year old. Most children are saturated by language all the time but Matt only hears bits and pieces of conversation and can really only hear in a one-on-one situation.

"The implant he will receive on Monday will bring his hearing loss up to only a moderate loss level so he will hear speech and a lot of environmental noise as well."

Mrs Lee said after Matt has the implant his language skills will improve dramatically, but the improvements won't happen overnight.

"He will have to assimilate the new sounds into language and that will take many months," she said.

"Language difficulties can be a very isolating factor and once his skills improve he will develop his friendships and open up his world."

The testing process Matt had to undergo to be approved for the implant during the past 12 months was long and intensive but luckily the Cochlear Implant Centre has been able to fund the $40,000 implant and with the help of the Dubbo and District Deaf Parents Support Group (DDDPSG), Matt and his family have been able to fulfill the testing requirements.

DDDPSG has already contributed funds to help the Russell family fund costs not covered by the government to allow Matt to travel to Sydney on a regular basis for testing.

And after the implant has been installed there will be a further six months of fortnightly trips to Sydney to map the technology.

"The implant must be adjusted so that Matt can learn the noises at a comfortable rate which means regular visits very soon after the operation," Mrs Lee said.

Matt's mum Renee said if it weren't for the financial and operational support of DDDPSG then it is unlikely Matt would be receiving the implant at all.

"The implant will be great for his experience and his safety. At the moment he can't even hear if a car is coming and he will run up to strangers because he doesn't understand that he's not supposed to," she said.

Mrs Lee said children like Matt provide the inspiration for members of DDDPSG to work so hard raising funds and supporting the hearing impaired.

"Matt is a popular, happy, warm and enthusiastic little boy and he concentrates and tries so hard to learn," she said.

"But we need ongoing support because there are more children than just Matt who need help.

"We have 38 deaf students in the district and numbers are increasing as children can be screened for hearing problems at younger than six months now.

"Narromine Rotary, Lions and Apex have all shown their support for this cause in the past but our costs are ongoing and the support needed is increasing."

For more information or to support Matt and other children like him call Mrs Lee on 6884 6714.

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