IM this article to a friend!

May 28, 2004

Lewis urges deaf to consider implants

From: Ninemsn - Sydney,New South Wales,Australia - May 28, 2004

The man known to rugby league fans as The King still chokes back tears when he talks about the most important day in his life - and it has nothing to do with sport.

For former Brisbane Bronco and State of Origin player Wally Lewis, the day his profoundly deaf daughter was able to hear is his most memorable.

Doctors discovered Jamie-Lee Lewis was deaf when she was just a year old.

The option of a cochlear implant was presented to the Lewis family and they decided to go ahead with the operation three years later, despite some criticism that their child was too young.

But 13 years on, Jamie-Lee is like any other teenager playing her music too loud - but not because she can't hear.

And her dad has now become the face of a new campaign, Break the Silence, which aims to convince older Australians to have the implant.

Lewis said his family had no regrets about Jamie-Lee's operation.

"It might be nearly 13 years ago, but I'll never, ever forget it," Lewis told reporters at the campaign launch.

"I shed tears at that time and I don't care how many times I tell the story, I nearly shed them every time."

Professor Graeme Clark, who invented the implant, said he was surprised to find 26,000 people over the age of 65 lived in a world of silence.

He said that if one third of those people got an implant it would return $100 million to the economy.

"We now need to let senior deaf people know that instead of joining a queue for a disability pension, they should start a queue for a cochlear implant," Prof Clark said.

"This matter is now urgent as the number of deaf people over the 65-year limit are going to double by 2051, so now is the time for us to shout for Australians to seek hearing diagnosis and treatment."

One person who did was Burnel Reeve, a retired Uniting Church minister who had been going deaf for 40 years until he got an implant in 2001.

Mr Reeve, 78, from the NSW central coast, said he found it extremely difficult to talk to his 13 grandchildren and counsel his parishioners prior to receiving the implant.

"I used to just say 'yes' or 'no' and sometimes they'd say 'look you've been wonderfully helpful' but I didn't know why," he said.

©AAP 2004

© 1997-2004 ninemsn Pty Ltd - All rights reserved