Bobby was born profoundly deaf, but with cochlear implants he can now hear fully. We hear his story plus more information about the implants that can help young children with their speech and learning development.
It was World Hearing Day on 3rd March 2016. This is an annual awareness-raising event organised by the World Health Organization (WHO). The theme for 2016, Childhood hearing loss: act now, here is how!, aims to draw attention to the need for global action to improve strategies for preventing and treating hearing loss and deafness in children. For children, hearing is key to learning spoken language and speech.
For World Hearing Day MED-EL, a leading provider of hearing implant systems, is highlighting the potential advantages of treating childhood deafness or hearing loss at an early age, when children are first exploring the world around them and learning to engage with their peers. The importance of early intervention for hearing loss is seen through the moving story of Bobby, a five-year-old boy based in North London. Bobby was born with profound hearing loss, something that his mother Lauren, an estate agent, and his father Dan, a black taxi driver, had never come across before.
Lauren shares her story of how Bobby was diagnosed and the process they went through to receive his MED-EL cochlear implants as early as possible:
“Bobby was born on his due date in October 2010 following a problem free pregnancy and birth. Similar to most babies born in the UK, Bobby underwent a Newborn Hearing Screening test soon after birth and was unable to pick up any sound. We weren’t concerned about the results as our doctor reassured us that a failed result was very common and most likely due to fluid in the ears after the birth. Bobby was then referred for more tests which he again failed to pass.
At our final test appointment, a very concerned looking paediatrician spoke to us about the inner ear and hairs on the cochlear. She even brought out a 3D model of the inner ear. 'I’m afraid Bobby has profound hearing loss in both ears,' she said. I felt sick and had to hand Bobby over to Dan while the paediatrician’s colleague got me a glass of water. The next few minutes blurred into one teary haze. We had no experience of hearing loss in our family and it was all so new. But we wanted to do everything we could for Bobby.
After many appointments where we had hearing aids fitted and tested, it became clear that Bobby’s hearing loss was so profound that he would gain no benefit from traditional hearing aids. However he would be a good candidate for cochlear implantation.
We were referred on for a cochlear implantation assessment, which took six month to complete and included MRIs to ensure the hearing nerve was present, CT scans and more hearing tests.
We applied for funding from the NHS and the panel agreed Bobby was the perfect candidate. We wanted Bobby to have access to sound as early as possible.
At around 12 months old Bobby had an operation to fit his MED-EL cochlear implants, part of which went is implanted directly in to his cochlea. Then after a few weeks for recovery it was time to switch them on. Bobby’s head did a sharp turn to the audiologist who was banging a drum. It was a lovely moment for our whole family. Bobby wasn't scared by the sudden sound as the audiologist turned the volume up little by little until he was comfortable. The second switch on was even more noticeable with lots of head turning and smiles. Bobby then had appointments every two weeks where they fine tuned the settings each time until it was at a level ideal for Bobby.
Having spent the first part of his life in his own isolated world Bobby then needed lots of help learning to understand this sudden world of sound around him, how to interact with it and to develop his own speech. Rehabilitation for the new cochlear implants was tough but we knew this and prepared ourselves for the long haul. We found out about Auditory Verbal UK (AVUK), a charity that teaches deaf babies to listen and speak through play-based sessions. Bobby was 20 months old when he went for his first session and hadn’t yet spoken his first word. After one day with AVUK he said something that sounded like 'playdoh'. At age four, Bobby graduated from the programme with the spoken language skills of a five-and-a-half-year-old!
Bobby’s implants have made a huge difference to his life; he is a very happy confident little boy. I’m not saying he wouldn't have been without the implants, but we are very happy with the choice for our family.
Bobby doesn't do anything by halves and loves to go all out and try his best at whatever he does. He is attending mainstream school and loves bike riding, karate and swimming. He's fantastic at reading independently and has better writing skills than me and daddy! We are very proud of Bobby and I know great things are still to come from him.”
About cochlear implants:
A cochlear implant is the only medical device that can replace a human sense – the sense of hearing. It takes over the work of the non-functioning part of the inner ear, enabling people like Bobby with severe to profound hearing loss to hear again. Cochlear implants can be used to treat severe to profound hearing loss in children of any age as well as adults and where applicable can be funded by the NHS. For children, diagnosis and treatment as early as possible increases their chances for speech development. The implants are fitted under the skin and, like in Bobby’s case, gently placed in the cochlea. An external piece is then fitted around the ear (looks like a hearing aid) which is switched on and controls volume. Bobby wears a MED-EL cochlear implant.
MED-EL is raising awareness of the importance of early implantation in children through the release of a new video which you can click here.
Learn more about cochlear implants at www.medel.com
For more on hearing loss in children see here: