Nov 2017 Newark Observer

Symons family The Symons family – Mia, Zoe, 11, Ella, 9, and Morel

If you ask 11-year-old Zoe Symons how her cochlear implants feel, she’ll say “natural.” Symons, a sixth-grader at Newark Charter School, is profoundly and severely deaf. She received her first cochlear implant, an electronic medical device that replaces the function of the damaged inner ear, at 2 years old. “It was a huge decision,” recalled Zoe’s mother, Mia.

At first, Mia and Morel Symons thought any developmental delays they were seeing in their daughter were due to a congenital heart defect, especially after Zoe passed a hearing test. That test result turned out to be a false positive, as a few months later the Symons had another test done that revealed Zoe was profoundly deaf – meaning she could not hear anything – in one ear and severely deaf in the other. “We were actually relieved at that point,” Mia said, “because then we knew all of the delays and everything we were seeing and the unresponsiveness was a hearing issue, and we could do something about that.”

Eventually, after seeing a classroom of profoundly deaf toddlers happily chatting thanks to their cochlear implants, the Symons decided their daughter should have the implant surgery. It’s a story Mia and Zoe recently shared with other families contemplating similar decisions when they participated in a video series called “I Want You to Hear.” Filming took place last February during the Newark family’s biennial trip to Disney World for the Cochlear Celebration, which brings together cochlear implant recipients of all ages. Although Mia had prepared something to say, the two learned once they got there they would be asking each other a series of questions. Last month, the series launched and several videos – ranging in time from one minute to five minutes – feature Mia asking such questions as “What’s your favourite thing to hear me say to you?” and her daughter asking, “How did you feel when you learned you were going to have me?”

Both Mia and her husband Morel have a background in medicine, which they agreed helped them communicate with doctors during Zoe’s early days in the hospital. However, they were not as prepared to deal with Zoe’s hearing loss. Informing others was part of the reason Mia said she participated in the video series. “Neither one of us knew anyone who was deaf or hard of hearing,” Mia said. “I had never really heard of cochlear implants before. We kind of got what the brain does, but there’s so much about it that we learned.”

Early on, the couple was encouraged to think about what goals they had for their daughter. Getting the first cochlear implant when Zoe was young helped her attend “mainstream school,” listen and speak, the Symons said. After receiving her first implant, Zoe attended the Clarke School for Hearing and Speech in Pennsylvania for a year before going on to Nathalie B. Hammond Preschool in Pike Creek. At age 7, Zoe made the decision to receive the second cochlear implant. Although Zoe knows sign language, the family rarely communicates through signing these days.

Morel, who stayed with the couple’s younger daughter while Mia and Zoe participated in the filming, said his favourite moment from the mother-daughter interview was the “unscripted honesty” when Zoe asked her mom what her hopes for her were. Mia replied that she wanted Zoe to know she could be anything she wanted to be. Right now, that’s an average sixth-grader. Zoe’s favourite class is English and language arts, and she’s a big reader who also enjoys performing and singing. She said she sometimes forgets about her cochlear implants, which are mostly covered by her hair and easy to miss. “If anybody out there has a disability or a quirk that makes them different than everybody else,” Zoe said, “just try to forget it’s even there and live your life as normally as you possibly can, like I do – most of the time.”


Nov 2017 Daily Mail Australia

The mother of a child born with significant hearing loss in both ears due to a genetic disorder has revealed how therapy and surgery have transformed her daughter's life.
Mel, of Gymea, is mum to Charlie, a bright, bubbly three-year-old who was born with profound hearing loss.

CharlieCharlie and MelTests just days after baby Charlie was born revealed she was deaf. Follow-up testing at Sydney's Children's Hospital confirmed Charlie was hearing impaired. 'The day we were told Charlie was deaf, our whole world was turned upside down. We had no knowledge or experience of deafness but we knew instantly that will would have a huge impact on our lives,' Mel said. 'It was so shocking and devastating. We didn't know anyone who had been through this. It was all very different to anything we'd experienced.' 

Mel and her partner Ben, are carriers of the Connexin 26 gene, a recessive gene which is the most common cause hearing impairment. 'My husband and I are both carry the gene but because we both have the good copy as well, the good always over-rides the bad copies, which is why our hearing is fine. 'Charlie was born with both our faulty copies.' 

Within weeks of Charlie's diagnosis she was given her first set of hearing aids, and at three months old she started audio verbal therapy to help teach her to listen and speak at the Shepherd Centre in Newtown. Despite weekly sessions, the family realised Charlie wasn't doing as well as she could have been and a decision was made for her to have the first of her two cochlear implant surgeries. Her first surgery was at 16 months, and her last just after she turned three.

Though Charlie continues to have regular therapy, her mum Mel said her progress has been nothing short of  'astounding'
'It's been such a long journey and finally it's all coming together and we are seeing really great progress. Charlie, who will turn four this December, is now a confident girl 'that will just walk into a room and want to make friends’ 'Whereas before she was a little bit unsure and would stand back, now she just sort of runs to join in and it's amazing to see.'

CharlieNow Charlie will bring a little hope to others who may be affected by hearing loss as the new face for the Shepherd's Centre 2017 Christmas Appeal. 'They do that for all the families,' she said.
'You have your little baby and you just want them to be perfectly healthy so when something happens its quite unknown and scary.'

The centre is aiming to raise $150,000 to provide support services for families with deaf or hearing impaired children. While the Shepherd Centre is NSW-based, funding will help children who are deaf and hearing-impaired develop spoken language skills in ACT and Tasmania. 'There are so many ups and downs with the journey, and they've always been there for us,' Mel said of the centre's work The charity, which was founded in 1970, has since helped more than 2000 children.

Jim Hungerford, CEO of The Shepherd Centre said many people don't realise it costs nearly $20,000 per child a year to provide services. 'Sadly, we know that currently only 50 per cent of Australian children with hearing loss are being supported by specialised early intervention services.
'Every child deserves the chance to reach their full potential regardless of disability.'


Oct 2017 Daily Mail Australia

Conventional hearing aids work by receiving sound through an external microphone, typically worn behind the ear, which sends signals to an amplifier that sits in the ear canal. Semi-implantable hearing devices include bone-anchored devices that feature a titanium sound processor surgically embedded into the skull. In cochlear implants, an electronic receiver is placed into the inner ear which receives sound signals from an external speech processor.

The Carina, however, is totally implantable and effective for hearing loss caused by problems with the outer and inner ear. Surgeons are restoring deaf patients’ hearing with this revolutionary implant without external parts – making it impossible to tell a person has it fitted. The battery-powered microphone, processor and motor is placed beneath the skin and within the skull near the ear in a complex operation. After six to eight weeks it is switched on – and the patient can hear again. Because all components of the new Carina device are fully implanted, patients are able to hear at all times.

CarinaCarinaProfessor Jaydip Ray, ear, nose and throat consultant at Sheffield Teaching Hospital, who has implanted three of the ten devices that have been given to British patients so far, said: ‘With this device, people can go swimming or take a shower without having to remove their hearing aid, as they do with conventional devices. The implant provides 24/7 hearing.’

A hand-held remote control enables users to turn the Carina on and off as well as control the volume. The only other piece of external equipment is a small charger which connects wirelessly. The Carina requires just 30 minutes of charging daily. The device is made up of three parts: a microphone that picks up external sound through the skin; a processor which turns the sound into electrical signals; and a motor that converts the electrical signals into mechanical vibrations. These cause tiny bones in the middle ear to vibrate and amplify a sound signal to the inner ear.

Surgery to implant the Carina lasts three to four hours, under general anaesthetic. First an incision is made into the skin directly behind the ear lobe and the microphone – the size of a 20p coin – is inserted between the skin and the bone. The processor, measuring 1½in, nestles within the large bone on the side of the head. Finally, the motor is placed inside a plastic tube and screwed in place, inside the middle ear. Patients are left with a tiny scar and a small bump behind the ear. After six to eight weeks, the hearing aid is switched on using the remote control.

The first Carina implant in 2011 was to a woman who lost her hearing at the age of six, and cost the NHS a total of £30,000. Prof Ray says the entire procedure will soon be available for today’s NHS patients for a fraction of the original price – just £12,000.

For Linda Oxley, one of the first in the UK to have the Carina implant, the revolutionary hearing aid has changed her life. ‘As soon as the implant was switched on, I could tell the difference. I could hear traffic, could hear people whistling, dogs barking, even hear the owl at night. I can go out and speak to people. I get choked up when I think about it – let’s just say cornflakes and crisps are a new experience.’ Linda also has to grapple with the less pleasant sounds that life has to offer. She joked: ‘I can now hear my husband snoring, so sometimes, I do turn it off in bed!’ 


Oct 2017

For the first time, over 22,000 people living in New Zealand with severe hearing loss can access the CochlearTM Nucleus 7 Sound Processor, the world’s first Made for iPhone cochlear implant sound processor and the smallest and lightest behind-the-ear cochlear implant sound processor available on the market. People living with severe to profound hearing loss can now reach the highest level of hearing performance, streaming sound directly from a compatible iPhone, iPad and iPod touch to their sound processor. The Nucleus 7 sound processor is 25 percent smaller and 24 percent lighter- than the previous generation Nucleus 6 Sound Processor. In addition users now have an easier way to control, monitor and customise their hearing from their iPhone or iPod touch through the free Nucleus Smart App.

"For people with hearing loss we know the ability to talk and hear on their iPhone is incredibly important. For the first time, the direct streaming provided in the Nucleus 7 sound processor allows for phone calls, listening to music in high-quality stereo sound, watching videos and having FaceTime calls to be seamlessly streamed straight to their cochlear implant," said Janet Menzies, General Manager, Cochlear Australia and New Zealand. A study of cochlear implant recipients participating in a trial of the Nucleus 7 Sound Processor found participants reported the new sound processor was easier to control/monitor with the Nucleus Smart App than with a remote control. The study also reported the majority of participants enjoyed listening to music (85 per cent enjoyable or very enjoyable) with the Nucleus 7 Sound Processor. Cochlear is also offering the first Made for iPhone Smart Bimodal Solution (the combination of a hearing aid in one ear and a cochlear implant in the other), enabling both hearing solutions to stream from a compatible iPhone, iPad or iPod touch.6- The Smart Nucleus 7 Bimodal Solution is delivered with a compatible ReSound hearing aid and a paired iPhone or iPod touch to control functionality for both hearing devices.

In August, the New Zealand government acknowledged the "life changing" benefits that Cochlear implants can offer and boosted the funding for New Zealand’s adult Cochlear Implant Programme to $14.93 million for 2017/2018. This additional spending will increase the total number of funded cochlear implants for adults in New Zealand from 40 to 100 operations for 2017/2018, a rise of 150 per cent.

The Nucleus 7 features the SmartSound iQ with SCAN and dual microphone technology, helping people to hear more clearly in any environment. From a busy restaurant to outdoors in blustering wind, the technology prioritises voices over background sounds. The Nucleus 7 offers a range of features with the Nucleus Smart App, exclusively available for iPhone and iPod touch on the App Store. The new Hearing Tracker records coil-offs time (each time the sound processor coil does not detect the implant coil, such as if it has fallen off a child’s head) and time in speech (which measures the amount of time spent in speech environments in hours, including FM and streaming). The Find My Processor feature of the Nucleus Smart App helps locate a lost processor by using Location Services to determine the last place the processor was connected to the paired iPhone or iPod touch, whether it has been lost on the playground, in the house or in the car.

Hearing loss is often not thought of as a debilitating health issue. However, unaddressed hearing loss can impact all aspects of life, from the development of speech and language, to education, career and social interaction. For children, early intervention is crucial so that they can develop oral communication and sound detection skills at the same rate as hearing children. In adulthood, hearing loss is associated with depression, dementia and increased risk of poor health, as well as greater unemployment. "A number of my patients have had their hearing gradually decline - sometimes it’s not immediately noticeable and so they may take a long time before seeking help. I would encourage anyone concerned with their or their loved ones hearing to not delay and make an appointment for a hearing test," said Caroline Selvaratnam, Audiologist, University of Auckland Clinics. Increasingly, evidence is showing cochlear implants for adults as an effective intervention for a much wider group of candidates than had previously been thought. Today more than 450,000 people around the world can hear thanks to Cochlear’s technology.