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May 31, 2004

Hearing aid opens up the world

From: TVNZ, New Zealand - May 31, 2004

A partially deaf New Plymouth woman is one of the first people to be fitted with a revolutionary hearing aid.

Sue Young is one of several hundred New Zealanders born without ear canals - a genetic condition which leaves people with limited hearing at best.

Young says while growing up she had no friends and was often punished at school for her lack of concentration.

"I used to come home from school every day with a red hand, a red ruler mark on my hand. I wasn't disruptive. I just sat there."

Young had a hearing aid fitted when she was six years old and she vividly recalls the first sounds she ever heard.

"I just sat looking down at the floorboards of the car and just said 'road talks, road talks'," Young says. The improvement allowed her to learn to talk, to lip-read and to hear limited conversation.

Six weeks ago a device called a bone-anchored hearing aid was surgically fitted above Young's ear inside her skull. The treatment has cost her $11,000.

Ear, nose and throat surgeon Dr Colin Brown says the device passes directly through to the skull bones and through into the inner ear which makes sounds clearer. He says now that the technology has become more available, it has transformed lives.

It will take several weeks for Young's brain to readjust to the fact that for the first time she can hear speech without lip-reading.

© 2004 TVNZ