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April 24, 2006

Hearing implants offer girls new lease of life

From: This Is Hertfordshire - Hertfordshire,UK - Apr 24, 2006

A set of profoundly deaf identical twins can now hear music, play the violin and listen out for the ice-cream van thanks to medical science.

Eight year-old Fae and Mae Al-Kalamchi, who are pupils at Ewell Junior School in Ewell, both have cochlear implants electronic devices that turn sound into tiny electrical pulses sent to the auditory nerve.

They have a condition affecting their vestibular aqueduct, which connects the inner ear to the cranial cavity, and it can cause complete hearing loss, short memory and tiredness. Mae was two-and-a-half-years-old when tests revealed she was deaf and she was later fitted with the revolutionary implant.

The twins mother, Lobna Al-Kalamchi, 48, from Addlestone, said: "I blamed myself and wondered if I'd done something wrong when I was pregnant. I'd had a lot of scans and worried that it was something to do with this but I knew it wasn't true.

"We knew something was wrong with Mae but we didn't think it was deafness. We thought there was something wrong with her speech.

"An hour later the doctor phoned me and said there were things we needed to discuss. It was like he was talking a different language about analogue and digital hearing aids.

"My husband searched the internet to find out about the condition and got information about the implants we decided we'd like her to have one."

After first having a hearing aid, Mae went to Southampton University Hospital to undergo the intricate cochlear implant procedure. The complicated operation can leave patients with facial paralysis if a nerve is damaged.

Cochlear implants, coupled with intensive post-implantation therapy, can help young children to acquire speech, language, developmental and social skills.

"When Mae first had a hearing aid her speech improved tremendously because before that she had no language at all, but me, her dad and a speech therapist worked really hard," Lobna said.

"Even when she was wearing a powerful hearing aid, Mae couldn't hear the ice-cream van but when she had the implant she could hear the song from the end of the garden.

"It means we now have an expensive ice-cream bill every Sunday," she said.

Fae, the oldest twin by four minutes, was five when she lost her hearing suddenly at Christmas 2003."We had a very traumatic time with Fae," said Lobna. "It was very emotionally traumatic.

"Suddenly she woke up one morning and said she couldn't hear from one ear.

"It was upsetting for her because she'd lost it so suddenly and it was coming and going. She was withdrawn in class and quiet with friends. It was then Mae who helped Fae.

"When she had the implant her confidence came back and her character changed. They take it in their stride."

9:34am Monday 24th April 2006

By Helen Husbands

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