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September 14, 2004

Future sounds good for Pearl

From: Shepparton News, Australia - Sep 14, 2004

By James Scurry
September 14 2004
Shepparton News

Pearl Miller's world of silence now has a brand new sound.

Born clinically deaf, it was not until early this year - after Pearl, 2, underwent surgery for a cochlear implant - that she heard her mother's voice for the first time.

"She just started crying as soon as they turned it on," her mother Sara Day said.

It is now an elated mum who gets a response from Pearl when her name is called out.

Grandfather Dwayne Atkinson, the health service coordinator at Rumbalara Medical Centre, said it was "just amazing" to see the look on Pearl's face when she heard sound for the first time.

"As soon as we got outside, a car went past with the music thumping . . . you should have seen the look on her face," Mr Atkinson said.

Ms Day said the family did not realise Pearl was deaf until she was nine months old.

Doctors at Goulburn Valley Base Hospital performed numerous tests on Pearl, including brain wave scans while she slept, to see if noise triggered a response.

"She just had no reaction . . . she didn't turn around," Ms Day said.

Rumbalara Aboriginal Cooperative regional hearing co-ordinator Sonya Briggs said Pearl was missing the passage connecting the cochlear to the eardrum - and that in her case the area was covered by bone.

Pearl now carries a small backpack containing a processor connected to a microphone in her ear, and a magnetic receiver is placed on the back of her head.

Ms Day said in total the implant cost about $35 000, which she was thankful was met by the government.

She said she struggled to make the decision to put her daughter through such a big operation.

"I knew if she didn't have it (the operation) done then she wouldn't be able to speak," Ms Day said.

Since the operation Pearl is more vocal, and she is expected to begin speaking by next year.

She attends a bilingual playgroup for deaf children and their families run fortnightly at the Monnington Centre in Melbourne's northeast.

Early learning group coordinator Linda Saunders said children were taught Auslan (Australian sign language) as well as English, and that Pearl's communication skills were progressing well.

"We'd all like to learn sign language one day," Pearl's grandmother Joanne Day said.

She said the family was close and that Pearl's journey was an emotional experience for them all.

© 2004 Shepparton News