Feb 2017 The Coast News Group, March 2017 DelMar Times

 Victoria Popov is a senior at Rochester Institute of Technology in New York who will graduate this spring with a major in biomedical sciences and a minor in psychology. The 22-year-old will spend the next year earning her master’s degree and conducting research. She then plans to attend medical school to become an otolaryngologist, or ENT. In her free time Popov serves as the treasurer for a premed student association that helps participants network.

While her are achievements are remarkable on their own, Popov’s accomplishments are all the more impressive because she has been bilaterally and profoundly deaf since birth, a condition that was not diagnosed until she was 18 months old. “Back then there wasn’t a required hearing screening for babies,” she said. “My parents would stand behind me and clap or say my name. Sometimes I would respond. Sometimes I wouldn’t. “The pediatrician said it was a phase,” she added. “But my parents finally took me in for a hearing test that confirmed that I had no residual hearing in both of my ears.”

About a year later Popov began using hearing aids, which amplified sound. But she was still unable to hear people talking or noises if they were behind her or in another room.

 Victoria PopovAt 8 she received a cochlear implant in her left ear. “One of the first things I noticed was I could hear the birds chirping,” Popov said. “That was something I never knew was a thing. Everything was really crisp and clear as well as amplified.” When she was 17 and starting to drive she received an implant in her right ear. “That gave me surround sound so I could locate where the sound was coming from,” she explained. “Together they help a lot. They’re amazing. “Alone it’s harder to pick up certain things but I wouldn’t have done it differently,” she said. “I got one at a time to see how it worked. I’m glad we did it that way because I got used to the first one. And when I was older I had a better idea of what to expect.”

Hearing loss didn’t slow Popov when she was young. She has been an avid horse rider since she was 4. During high school she volunteered in the emergency room at Scripps Memorial Hospital.

“I’ve always had a passion for medicine,” she said. “I shadowed an orthopaedic surgeon and later on an ENT surgeon.” She was observing the operating room when the doctor who placed her second implant was performing the surgery on another person. “He was doing someone else’s implant,” she said. “I thought it was the coolest thing ever. It was very interesting and mind-boggling and inspiring. That’s when I decided I wanted to be an ENT.” Popov said she knew going into the medical field would probably be more challenging for her because she might not be able to pick up certain information. But technology is helping her there, too. During her undergraduate studies in New York, Popov shadowed a deaf doctor. “I got to learn some of his tricks,” she said. “He has to use a special stethoscope that uses cardionic headphones that are blue-tooth wired. So that was a cool experience.”

In recognition of her achievements, Cochlear Limited recently awarded Popov a Graeme Clark scholarship, which recognises college students who are Cochlear Nucleus Implant recipients who have demonstrated leadership, humanity and solid academic achievements. Popov will receive $2,000 annually for up to four years to help pay for medical school. Popov has a simple message for parents and youngsters who are in similar situations. “It’s going to be OK,” she said. “For kids like me, just keep going after your dreams. There are no limits and boundaries. Life works in funny ways so just enjoy the ride.” She also has some advice for anyone who meets a deaf person.

“When I say that I’m deaf people assume right away that I won’t be able to speak,” she said. “I think it’s important for people to know there are new technologies that have provided a lot of different options.”

Feb 2017 Southern Daily Echo and Metro.co.uk

For fifty years Helen and Neil Robinson have lived in a silent world. Deaf from birth, the couple have only ever communicated through sign language, lip reading and frustrating attempts to use hearing aids. Now the pair have been successfully fitted with cochlear implants – the first time a couple has undergone the procedure in the history of the University of Southampton Audiology Implant Service (USAIS). As a result, Neil and Helen are now starting to hear for the first time together with everyday noises like a kettle boiling and listening to birdsong some of the most enjoyable sounds they are encountering. In fact Neil, 50, also credits his fledgling hearing to potentially saving his life having stepped out of the way of an oncoming car after hearing it before he saw it.

It was Helen, 54, who first tabled the idea of having the implant - the invention of which was celebrated on International Cochlear Implant Day on February 25. Neil was less convinced, but after two years of consideration he decided to ask his GP for a referral to see if he was suitable.

The couple, who have been married for almost 12 years and have raised a son, then started on their journey towards hearing for the first time. In the early days of January, the couple came back to the centre to have the devices switched on, something which proved to be an emotional experience that was captured on video – with Neil, 50, at first joking that he didn’t like the sound of his wife’s voice. 

Helen and Neil RobinsonThe couple, who live near Salisbury, Wiltshire, were born deaf due to their mothers contracting rubella during pregnancy. 

Neil, who is an Anglican curate said: “It felt incredible, in a happy way. It felt really emotional.”

Dr Mary Grasmeder joined USAIS in 1996, and explained how initially the device was thought to be only suitable for those who had recently lost hearing and had already developed speech and language skills. Similarly with children, the sooner the implant is fitted the better the outcome would be for them. Increasingly however, the service is now seeing referrals from people who have been deaf since birth but who are still getting significant benefits from the implant. Mary explained: “People who have been deaf for some time don’t have the same expectation of sound will be like compared with someone who has just lost their hearing. Because their auditory system is not so well developed it will be more difficult for them to process the information and to understand it.”

The experience of those people who decide to have cochlear implants having been deaf since birth is not easy to predict, and is the basis of new research at the University. Exactly how much Helen and Neil will eventually be able to hear remains unknown but both say they are delighted they made the decision to have the implant. Being able to hear has given Helen a new found confidence although the couple admit that they haven’t enjoyed every sound they are now experiencing. Neil jokingly said he didn’t really like the sound of Helen’s voice when he first heard it. “I am getting used to it now,” he added. In return Neil’s habit of playing a game on his phone whilst Helen is watching television is also one of her bug bears as she finds the noise “distracting”.

Both are also still learning what their names sound like when spoken. Neil, an avid jazz fan, is looking forward to hearing music for the first time and also seeing how his hearing affects his work as a priest at St Michael’s Church in the parish of Bemerton near Salisbury, whilst Helen says she looks forward to enjoying a presentation without having to look at the signing. Despite their new found sense, Neil said he still considers himself to be a deaf person. “I am deaf that is my culture. That won’t change. Having the cochlear implant has helped me, but it won’t change me. The gift of sound has given me independence,” he says.


March 2017 CornwallLive 

On World Hearing Day in March, Janie Llewellyn, from Falmouth, spoke of her amazement at hearing once again after she had a cochlear implant in June 2015. Just being able to have a conversation on the phone still amazes Janie, a 71-year-old grandmother of seven girls.

For almost 15 years before she had the implant, she couldn't use the telephone at all. That meant she always had to rely on someone else to help when it came to paying bills or making a doctor's appointment. And that was only a tiny part of the frustration that she still remembers so acutely. "Every day when I wake up and put on my processor I just can't believe it – I never take the fact I can now hear for granted," she said.

She began wearing hearing aids when she was in her 30s due to a hereditary hearing problem and for the next 25 years she managed, raising her family of two daughters and a son, in between part-time jobs and, later, managing her local charity shop for 13 years. But as her hearing got progressively worse, her hearing aids no longer helped. "I couldn't hear what my family was saying. I became more and more insular and very depressed, and I didn't want to go out anywhere," she said. "Just trying to hear made me feel absolutely exhausted. I used to love going to the cinema and theatre, but I remember going to see the Moulin Rouge film when it came out but was so tired trying to pick up the words that I fell asleep with exhaustion after 10 minutes – and that was despite all the sounds of the music and colour!"

A naturally bubbly and social person, Janie loved to entertain and visit friends or meet in the local pub, but gradually that all stopped too. She added: "I found I was just cooking for people but not joining in the conversation as it was too frustrating. And going to the pub for quiz night was pointless – by the time someone had explained the question to me, someone else had already answered.” She even gave up her art classes as she couldn't hear what the lecturer was saying. The last four years before her cochlear implant, she admits were a struggle. She couldn't drive as she was unable to hear the gear change and didn't want to go out by herself or travel by train as she felt vulnerable not being able to hear the sound of traffic or the announcement of a train change. But her biggest heartache was not being able to hear her family, especially her sixth granddaughter who was a toddler at the time. She said: "I felt I couldn't bond with her, and when we had the family round the table, with my granddaughters chatting and laughing, I knew I was missing it all - I just sat there looking gormless."

Janie had heard about cochlear implants but didn't think that she would qualify, but when her audiologist at the Royal Cornwall Hospital said she would make a good candidate she jumped at the chance. "Like most people, I was nervous of having an operation but was told it was a very straightforward procedure with less risk than having your tonsils out. And yes, after I'd had it done, I wish I'd had it sooner."

Janie JanieJanie with her daughters Gemma (left) and Jo and granddaughter Iris.

"It was a very emotional moment - I could hear immediately. At first, people's voices sounded like a cross between a Dalek and Stephen Hawking but gradually this improved. Apparently, one's hearing continues to improve for up to five years although a plateau is usually reached about six months after switch-on. It was like being on an exciting adventure. With new sounds being assimilated every day.” Her first joy was being driven home in the car from the hospital by an old friend and being able to have a conversation for the first time in four years. And when she arrived home she couldn't believe she could hear the birds. "I felt very uplifted - I could even hear the seagulls which I now think make such a racket," she added. One of her most memorable moments was when her little granddaughter, now aged five, came up and whispered in her ear 'I love you' – "That was an extra special moment," she said. And there was more to come. For the first time, Janie was able to hear her son, Guy, who is in a wheelchair, play the French horn in the British Paraorchestra. "It was absolutely marvellous to be able to go to his concert not just to hear the music but also join in the repartee at the rehearsals and afterwards."

And it's not just Janie who is delighting in the fact she can now hear again. Her son and two daughters, Jo and Gemma, feel they have got their mum back. "She had become more withdrawn and it was so sad to see how upset and frustrated she became at family events because she couldn't hear what was going on," said Jo. "We feel we have finally got our bubbly mum back."

Janie's brother and sister are now dead, but had both been profoundly deaf in their later years. Her only regret is that her siblings hadn't lived long enough to benefit from the fact cochlear implants are now available on the NHS for adults. "I would have loved them to have experienced this. The cochlear implant has given me my life back. I now feel part of the human race again. I have regained my confidence and zest for life. To anyone thinking of having a cochlear implant, I'd say "go for it! You won't regret it”.

Janie’s story comes as experts warn at least two thirds of people with poor hearing are not seeking help. They said that by ignoring their hearing loss, people are putting their health and mental wellbeing at risk. People with mild hearing loss are twice as likely to develop dementia as people without any hearing loss. The risk increases to three times for those with moderate hearing loss, and people with severe hearing loss are five times as likely to develop dementia. Experts are working together to raise awareness that people struggling to hear need to take action: seek a hearing test, receive evidence-based treatment and stop ignoring their deafness, which places a huge strain on their health and wellbeing and a great burden on their loved ones and their families.

Professor Adrian Davis, an advisor to NHS England, vice president of Action on Hearing Loss and patron of The Ear Foundation, said: "People don't take their hearing health seriously enough. They don't place a value on it until they realise they can't hear as well. They can't communicate, can't have relationships with other people, can't have fun and can't do many things with their families.

In the UK, we have the best hearing services in the world and they are free. We need to work more with people to get them to understand that their hearing needs can be met.”

The UK hearing industry is working hard to greatly improve access for adults to hearing technology. It is calling for mandatory adult hearing health screening and a change to stringent NICE guidelines to allow more severely affected people struggling to hear to benefit from cochlear implants, available free of charge through the NHS, if their hearing aids are not enough. Recent figures show that at best only 6.7% of adults with profound hearing loss, the group most likely to meet the current NICE criteria, are implanted. Taking the first step to better hearing can be as simple as doing an online hearing test. If the results show a hearing problem, the next step is to make an appointment with a GP and ask for an audiological referral.

Feb 2017 stuff.co.nz

Two-year-old Maisy Taylor has been barely able to hear her mother's voice for most of her short life. But, the Manawatu toddler is now dancing to her favourite songs and mooing like a cow after a recent life-changing surgery. Maisy was born with severe hearing loss after contracting cytomegalovirus. The virus is common, with more than half of the population estimated to have been infected by the time they reach mid-adulthood.  It usually remains dormant, but can cause long-term health problems for babies born with it.

Massey TaylorKatie Taylor with daughter Maisy, 2, who has cochlear implants in both ears.

Massey Taylor

After failing hearing tests, Maisy was fitted with hearing aids at 12 weeks old, but something was still not quite right, her mother Katie Taylor said. "We thought 'she'll fine, hearing aids will do the trick’. After about a year, we were having more hearing tests done. I kept saying 'I'm sure she can't hear very well'. She wasn't responding to her name.” She went to another specialist, who confirmed Maisy was profoundly deaf. "I just burst into tears, I said 'I just want you to tell me I'm not going crazy’."  Taylor believed Maisy's hearing difficulties were the result of her getting sick during her pregnancy. "I was so gutted, I felt so guilty.” But, she still had to get up each morning and concentrate on her children. "I just don't think you get a choice, you've just got to get on with it."  Taylor said her daughter had the equivalent hearing of a 6-month-old. Due to the late detection of her condition, Maisy had lost about a year of hearing. Taylor said there was not widespread public knowledge about cytomegalovirus, despite it being relatively common.

At 20 months old, Maisy underwent four hours of surgery to have cochlear implants put in. Maisy now responds to her name, dances and even moos like a cow. "She is behind, but she's making great progress. Her personality has come out heaps since she had the implants put in."

Taylor said she would always remember the words of the surgeon who operated on her daughter.

"He turned to the junior doctors and said 'always listen to a mother, because she spends 100 per cent of her time with her child. If you can't prove her wrong then you've got to listen to them'.

I've never forgotten that."