April 2017 The West Australian

Three generations of a Perth family are living proof of the big gains that come from science, all gifted with hearing thanks to Australian medical research. The cochlear implant has transformed the lives of 69-year-old Leslie French, his 42-year-old daughter Jody Maitland and 13-year-old grandson Hayden. Born with major hearing loss, the three can now hear voices on the phone, dogs barking and even the sound of footsteps and a ticking clock. While they all had the same surgeon, Ear Science Institute of Australia director Marcus Atlas, their operations came at different stages in their lives.

Mr French was the first to have an implant in 2005 soon after he retired, and in 2006 his wife Kathy persuaded their daughter Jody to go down the same path. “I had been wearing hearing aids since I was young but after I became a mother I realised how much I wasn’t hearing, like the sound of my child in the next room,” Mrs Maitland said. “My mother made me realise how much I was missing out on, especially after seeing the difference it made to Dad, and having the cochlear implant just changed my life and for the first time I could talk on the phone.” 

Maitland familyHayden Maitland with his mum Jody Maitland and grandfather Leslie French at the new Ralph and Patricia Sarich Neuromuscular Research Institute at QE11.

Mrs Maitland’s eldest son was diagnosed with deafness at four years old, and after his hearing continued to decline he received a cochlear implant when he was 10. “I never reached my potential in my career, and with Hayden I didn’t want him to struggle and miss out on things,” Mrs Maitland said. “Since he had his implant his school grades have gone from Cs and Ds to As and Bs.”

The ear institute is one of four neurological research groups coming under one roof in Perth.

The Sarich Neuroscience Research Institute at the QEII Medical Centre is the brainchild of neurosurgeon Professor Bryant Stokes and is named after Ralph and Patricia Sarich, who donated $20 million. Apart from ear research, the $37 million facility will house Curtin University’s Neuroscience Research Laboratory, the Perron Institute for Translational and Neuroscience Research and the Australian Alzheimer’s Research Foundation.