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December 21, 2006

Deaf twins to hear joy of Christmas

From: BBC News - UK - Dec 21, 2006

Dot Kirby
BBC Northern Ireland health correspondent

Like children the world over, Curtis and Reece Flanagan will not hear Santa coming down the chimney this Christmas Eve.

But what they will hear - for the first time - will be the squeals of delight with which each will open their presents on Christmas morning.

They will hear the crackling of logs in the festive grate and the sound of their classmates singing Jingle Bells. Curtis and Reece are three-year-old identical twins who were born deaf.

But in August, they each underwent a miracle operation. They had cochlear implants fitted. And it means they can now hear for the first time.

So the twins really got their best present ever three months ago when their implants were switched on.

'Difficult to control'

The implants place electrodes deep inside the ear. These produce impulses which are transmitted to brain and interpreted as sound.

Before their implants, Curtis and Reece were trapped in a world they could not hear - or understand.

Their mother Orla says that as a result their behaviour was often difficult to control.

"Anything they wanted, they couldn't tell me. It was so frustrating for them, so frustrating for me - the whole house was in chaos," she recalls.

But since their operations, the boys' behaviour has improved remarkably. And Orla is delighted with their progress.

"They are able to say Santa for the first time, they are able to point at the lights on the tree and say 'Christmas tree' and 'lights'", she says.

At Belfast City Hospital surgeon Joe Toner has pioneered fitting cochlear implants.

He is very pleased with how the boys' speech and language has developed.

And he believes their operations have given them a bright future:

"I think this has the potential to transform their lives," he

"They probably will be able to attend mainstream school, they won't have to have segregated education and, hopefully, they will be able to integrate in most activities with their peers, in a way that may not have been possible if they had not had their implants."

This year, Mr Toner has fitted implants to the Flanagans and eight other children.

Whatever is in the Christmas stockings of these children, it will not beat the gift they received during the year.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2006/12/21 16:21:36 GMT