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July 27, 2005

Centre breaks sound barriers

From: Brisbane Courier Mail, Australia - Jul 27, 2005

Cameron Atfield

WALKING into the Hear and Say Centre at Auchenflower yesterday, little Ruby Hughes asked, and was told, the name of the fish on the front counter.

"Hello, Sushi," she said.

A little over a year ago, that would have seemed impossible.

Her mother, Annie, said she and her husband, Tim, first noticed Ruby had a severe hearing problem when she was about six months old.

"We just noticed she wasn't responding when we called out to her, so we started clapping our hands and making other loud noises," she said.

"It was only when she saw us she knew we were there."

Testing found Ruby was profoundly deaf in one ear, and chronically deaf in the other.

Ruby, who will turn 2 tomorrow, received a cochlear implant about a year ago, which opened her little ears to a world of sound.

Still recovering from that hurdle, the Hughes family received another blow – their newborn son, Ned, was diagnosed with degenerative hearing loss.

"We had him tested the day after he was born, and that was all OK, but when we came back four weeks later, they found some hearing loss," she said.

"We were completely shattered because we just had this ideal scenario that Ruby would have a hearing brother.

"At the moment (at four months old), his hearing is too good for an implant, but it's something we're going to have to monitor."

The Hughes family is one of about 150 to benefit from the work of the Hear and Say Centre, which yesterday received a donation from the The Courier-Mail Children's Fund to buy new equipment worth more than $70,000.

Hear and Say Centre chairman Jane Black said the new audiological equipment would allow children to be tested in Queensland, rather than having to fly to Sydney for implant assessments. A portable programming system also will allow implants to be "mapped", or programmed, to the child's needs closer to their homes.

Queensland Newspapers managing director Jerry Harris said the Hear and Say Centre was a worthy recipient of The Courier-Mail Children's Fund donation.

"The Hear and Say Centre is doing great work across Queensland with these children and is showing the sort of leadership that will solve this problem not just in Queensland, but across Australia as well," Mr Harris said.

© Queensland Newspapers