Aug 2018 The Australian
John Holsgrove with wife Jean at Subiaco
Hearing loss and the social isolation it causes can hasten the onset of dementia, but treating hearing loss can help prevent or delay its onset. Research into patients suffering hearing loss at the not-for-profit Ear Science Institute Australia in Perth has found that patients benefit in other ways by restoring their hearing. Institute head and cochlear implant surgeon Marcus Atlas says there is a clear link between hearing loss and cognitive loss. Addressing hearing loss allows patients to stay in the social mainstream and is especially effective in patients in their 50s or 60s. “We were interested to see if we provide a cochlear implant or hearing aid, will it lead to a different outcome? We think it does,” he said.
Similar findings in the medical journal The Lancet identify more than a third of dementia cases that theoretically could be prevented if risk factors, including hearing loss, are addressed early enough.
The Lancet study found social isolation aligned with peripheral hearing loss was a critical factor in cognitive decline. Even mild cases could raise the risk of dementia. “It’s exciting for us because we’ve spent the last five years trying to understand the link between cognitive loss and hearing loss,” Professor Atlas said. “We began work with mild to moderate patients. The finding that dementia is linked to hearing loss is new, and we contributed to that work.”
Cochlear recipient John Holsgrove said when he realised his hearing was deteriorating, he knew it could also increase the risk of dementia. With several close relatives with Alzheimer’s disease, “it wasn’t my main reason for getting a cochlear implant, but it was certainly a consideration that it would lessen the risk,” he said. The 65-year-old psychologist’s hearing began failing in 2009 and by 2014 he realised he could no longer hear his patients well enough to do his job: “Losing my career was one thing, but the total isolation was a much bigger issue.”
Sept 2018 New Zealand Herald
Rotorua's Rose Murfitt, 12
Rotorua's Rose Murfitt and her family are living, breathing examples of the benefits of fighting for what you believe in.Ten years ago the Rotorua Daily Post highlighted the case of then 2-year-old Rose, whose family was expected to find $20,000 for speech therapy and audiology services because her cochlear implant operation was carried out in the United States. Rose became the face of a campaign by her grandmother Jennifer Minty for better public funding for all deaf children with cochlear implants.Minty's efforts were never just about her own granddaughter - the family turned down an offer to publicly fund some of Rose's treatment, because the Ministry of Health would not extend the offer to other children in the same situation. Their persistence paid off as the law around funding was changed and now included all children who received implants overseas.
"We took the Government to task over it and we won. We changed the law. I was thrilled, I really was. It was a big deal," Minty said.
Rose Murfitt (left) and grandmother Jennifer Minty pictured on Loud Shirt Day in 2008. Ten years later the pair continue to proudly support the cause. Being unable to hear can be a huge barrier to learning and socialising, but with her implants Rose, who is now 12, is excelling at school and enjoying a life of inclusion.
"Everything's going pretty good," Rose said - a modest answer from a girl who is in the accelerated programme at Kaitao Intermediate School.
Tiffany said her daughter "lived in both worlds”. "The implants make a huge difference. Even if she just takes off the external device, she's completely deaf. Without them, she wouldn't have been able to learn how to speak with clarity and she'd be reliant on sign language. "It's not a cure for deafness at all, but it's a tool. She's still part of the deaf community, but she's also part of the hearing community. She is fully integrated and mainstreamed, like every other kid her age, and we're looking at high schools for next year."
Sept 2018 Manawatu Standard
Maisy Taylor loves her new ears so much her mum has to smuggle them off her at night to recharge them.The three-and-a-half year old was born profoundly deaf, and two years ago had two life-changing cochlear implants. Mum Katie Taylor said Maisy's hearing loss was picked up early, and she was initially fitted with hearing aids. But by the time she was 18 months old, it was clear to her she was not hearing. She was alert, drinking in information about the world through her eyes, but not responding to her name.
Cochlear implants are no barrier to taking part in swimming lessons for Maisy Taylor, 3
Taylor said on the day she had her implants, her spoken language development was reset to that of a newborn. Two years later, she was closing the gap, hearing like a two year old and speaking like she was two-and-a-half or nearly three. "Our goal is for her to catch up by the time she starts school.” Taylor said it took time to help Maisy. "We talk a lot, and have to remember to speak slowly and clearly."
Maisy gets extra help from a teacher of the deaf when she goes to kindergarten in Bulls, and has things to do at home to help her understand some of the concepts people put into words.
"They say they do miss out on some things, like the things others overhear."
Noisy places, such as an indoor swimming pool, could be a challenge but on a quiet day at Feilding's Makino Aquatic Centre, Maisy is all ears for instructor Sara Kennard as she splashes like any other kid.
Sept 2018 RIDBC in Australian Hearing Hub
The parents of children who are deaf or hard of hearing can often feel like they need to make a choice whether to pursue spoken language or Australian Sign Language (Auslan) for their child, but as Callie’s family have shown, it doesn’t have to be either or.
As a newborn, Callie was diagnosed with profound sensorineural bilateral hearing loss, meaning she has permanent hearing loss in both ears. While it can be challenging for new parents to understand their next steps, Callie’s parents felt more prepared than most. Both of Callie’s parents are deaf, and so were able to call on their own experiences, as well as those of their own parents, to make decisions.
Callie’s mum, Jordanna, grew up using sign language, and immediately knew that a combination of Australian Sign Language (Auslan) and spoken language were important goals for Callie’s future. RIDBC Early Learning Program for hearing impaired children can incorporate both spoken English and Auslan in an integrated program – a feature that, Jordanna says, made her choice easy.
“I met with RIDBC Early Learning Program Consultant, Katie, and I liked the fact that I could see she used both speech and Auslan – they were used interchangeably, and I knew that would really give Callie access to both worlds,” she said.
Not all the decisions Callie’s parents would make were as easy as this one. The decision to get a cochlear implant was one of the hardest. Jordanna doesn’t have a cochlear implant herself and is a proud member of the Deaf community. “I don’t feel like I need to hear,” she explained. “I am proud of who I am and being deaf is part of that.” In considering their options, Callie’s parents realised that a cochlear implant didn’t mean forgoing Auslan – Callie could, and would, have both. “There is a mistaken belief that people have to choose sign language or a cochlear implant. But that’s simply not the case – I want to give Callie every opportunity - I want to give her the whole world. A combination of speech and signing with a cochlear implant was, for us, the right way to go.
“It wasn’t an instant decision, it was a process. I did a lot of research before coming to a conclusion – and it’s a decision I don’t regret.”
RIDBC’s early learning program team work with each family to set goals and create individualised plans to achieve the outcomes that are important to them. Callie began seeing the team at RIDBC as a young baby, when it was all about supporting her family to help her develop through play. “Callie had amazing eye contact and I remember Jordanna signing ‘Incy Wincy Spider’ to her – there was a lot of really beautiful communication happening very naturally in the family,” said Katie.
Katie worked with the family as Callie grew, identifying whether cochlear implants were an option, and then supporting the family in their decision. Once the decision had been made, Katie and the team worked with Callie to develop both her Auslan and English skills.
“It’s a unique situation as we are essentially supporting Callie to develop two languages. We work very closely with the family to do this. For example, sometimes I will read a book to Callie and then Jordanna will talk to her about it in Auslan,” she explains.
At just three years of age, Callie is now bilingual, fluent in Auslan and English, in which she has reached equivalency with her hearing peers. Callie is attending RIDBC Rockie Woofit Preschool, where the RIDBC early learning program team will continue to work with her to prepare her for the transition to school where Callie will be ready to take on the next challenge.