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April 27, 2004

Charity helps boy hear again

From: Melbourne Herald Sun, Australia - Apr 27, 2004

A PROFOUNDLY deaf four-year-old Sydney boy can hear again after a charity group replaced his stolen Cochlear implant processing unit.

But police still want to recover the original unit.

The boy's hearing relies on the $10,000 device, which was stolen from his backpack as he played in his aunt's front yard at suburban Willmot yesterday.

Police believe the person who stole the processor may have mistaken it for a portable CD player.

Charity group the Sydney Cochlear Implant Centre sent a replacement unit to the boy's family today, but police still hope the thief will hand back the vital equipment.

Centre general manager Chris Wren said the theft highlighted the need for more Federal Government funding for replacement units.

Mr Wren said the charity gave the boy a "temporary loaner", but would like the Office of Hearing Services to increase funding so more children could be given upgrades in technology.

"Obviously our first priority was to replace the unit as the boy was effectively rendered deaf again when the processor was stolen," he said.

"But the reality is there is a small, but vastly inadequate, amount of funding to replace lost or stolen technology and to upgrade technology when new technology comes along."

He said between 500 and 600 children in Australia used Cochlear implants and current funding enabled no more than 70 upgrades each year.

Mr Wren believed there could be a 30-year waiting list for upgrades by 2008 due to inadequate funding.

The stolen processor is red and yellow and has a sticker with the name Luke and a smiley face on it.

Processors, usually worn in a backpack, work in conjunction with a small unit located inside the ear.

© Herald and Weekly Times