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June 17, 2004

New bid to help deaf children

From: Belfast Telegraph, UK - Jun 17, 2004

A RESEARCH project which could transform the lives of children born with severe deafness has been completed at a Northern Ireland hospital.

The four-year project was carried out in the Regional Cochlear Implant Centre at Belfast City Hospital, which treats children who cannot benefit from conventional hearing aids.

In an attempt to find the "X factor" which may explain varying rates of progress after implantation, speech and language therapist Jill Titterington, who conducted the research, focused on determining why hearing children and those with severe to profound hearing loss may process auditory information in memory differently.

The project, which was supported by linguistics professor Alison Henry at the University of Ulster and research officer David Watson at Queen's, was financed entirely by the Freemasons of Ireland Medical Research Fund.

Jill has presented an analysis of her research data to several professional seminars, including an international conference on child language development and disorder in Boston, U.S.A., and plans to publish papers in a number of prestigious journals.

She also hopes to complete her PhD as a result of the research work.

She described the project as "a wonderful, worthwhile and very exciting investigation which hopefully has made a real contribution to our knowledge in this area".

She said: "The key outcome is that it is beginning to shed more light on why some children do better with cochlear implants than others.

"It is increasing our insight into what particular areas of language processing are difficult for children with cochlear implants, which will be vital for directing more appropriately targeted assessments and treatment techniques."

She added: "It will hopefully open up new areas for further research."

The director of the centre, consultant surgeon Mr Joe Toner, who instigated the project, commented: "The work generously funded by the Freemasons has provided a valuable insight into the issues which determine children's performance after cochlear implantation.

"Hopefully it will allow more targeted therapy strategies to be developed and enable children to benefit more from their cochlear implant. This should enable more children to develop adequate speech and language skills and equip them to communicate orally, access the curriculum at school and integrate with hearing peers in social and play situations."

The project was the fifth to be supported by the Masonic Medical Research Fund since it was established almost 15 years ago.

Others have included research into osteoarthritis at Musgrave Park Hospital, Belfast, rheumatoid arthritis at St Vincent's Hospital, Dublin, community medicine at University College, Galway, and new prognostic markers in thyroid cancer at Trinity College, Dublin.

Irish Freemasons have also raised £500,000 for the alleviation of the effects of Alzheimers Disease as well as tens of thousands of pounds for various other charities such as the Meningitis Research Foundation, Royal National Lifeboat Institute and Diabetes UK.

Said Mr. Robert Campbell, a trustee of the fund: "The huge success of our fund-raising efforts all over Ireland is an achievement of which we feel especially proud.

"It reflects our open and active participation in the life of the community and demonstrates that we are a caring organisation and part of society."

© 2004 Independent News and Media (NI) a division of Independent News & media (UK) Ltd