The deeply deaf girl who found her voice after brain surgery



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Read receiving support using your auditory implant that required complex brain surgeryImage copyright
NHS of Guy and St Thomas

Read Armitage, 7, lived in total silence during the first two years of her life, but thanks to pioneering brain surgery and years of therapy, she found her voice and can finally tell her parents that she loves them.

"They told us that you could put a bomb behind her and she would not hear anything if she blew up," Leia's father said when he remembered to discover that their little girl had a rare form of profound deafness.

Read from Dagenham in Essex had no inner ear or auditory nerve, which means that even ordinary hearing aids or cochlear implants would not help her.

As a result, she was never expected to speak – but despite the risks, her parents fought her to be one of the first children in the UK to receive an auditory brainstem implant, requiring complex brain surgery when she was two years old .

NHS England calls the surgery "truly life-changing" and said it will fund the implant of other deaf children in a similar position.

It is estimated that about 15 children per year will be evaluated for the procedure and nine will undergo surgery.

Hear cars honking

Bob says that opting for this kind of brain surgery was a big decision for them, but "we wanted to give Leia the best opportunity in life."

He and his wife Alison had hoped that after surgery at the NHS Foundation Trust of Guy and St Thomas, she could hear things like cars honking as she crossed the street – to make it safer in the world.

However, in the five years since the surgery, their progress was far greater than they had expected.

Image copyright
NHS of Guy and St Thomas

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Read with your parents, Bob and Alison, and Brother Jacob

She began slowly, with Leia turning her head to the sound of the train doors closing soon after the operation.

Gradually she began to understand the concept of sound while her parents continually repeated the words, asking her to imitate the sound.

Now, after a lot of regular speech and language therapy, she can put together complete phrases, try to sing along with the song and hear voices on the phone.

"We can call her upstairs when we're downstairs and she'll hear us," Bob explains.

& # 39; I love you & # 39;

But it's in regular school, in a classroom with children listeners, where Leia really is flying, thanks to wizards using sign language and giving her a lot of time one-on-one.

"She's picking up more and more and she's not far behind other people her age at most things," says Bob.

At home, using her voice is what pleases her parents the most.

"I love you, Daddy's probably the best thing I've ever heard," says Bob.

"When I put her to bed, she says," Good night, Mom, "something I never expected to hear," says Alison.

Leading surgery involves the insertion of a device directly into the brain to stimulate the auditory pathways in children born without cochlea or auditory nerves.

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Getty Images

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The implant is inserted directly into the brain next to the brainstem in the lower brain

A microphone and a sound processor used on the side of the head transmit sound to the implant.

This electrical stimulation can provide auditory sensations, but can not promise to restore normal hearing.

However, prof. Dan Jiang, an otologist and clinical director at the Guy's Hearing Implant Center and the NHS Foundation Trust in St Thomas, said some children may develop a degree of speech.

"The results are variable. Some will do better than others," he said.

"They have to adapt to this and the younger children get better, so we like to insert the implant sooner if possible."

Children under the age of five are in a better position to learn new sound concepts and respond to intensive therapy, he said.

Susan Deans, executive director of the National Deaf Children's Society, said, "Every deaf child is different and for some, technology like brainstem auditory implants may be the right choice and can make a big difference in their lives ".

"With the right support, deaf children can achieve as well as their fellow listeners and that investment is another important step toward a society where no deaf children are left behind."

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