July 2017 Herald Sun
Austin Archer came into the world weighing little more than a tub of butter. Born at 23 weeks gestation and 540g, he was one of Australia’s smallest and most premature babies. While his start to life was early, in many developmental milestones it left him behind. But now, thanks to a Melbourne invention, he is finally discovering the joy of sound. Austin is the 1000th child at the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital to receive a cochlear implant. It’s only been a few months since he got the bionic ear and already he knows new sounds: the moo of a cow, the quack of a duck and the oink of a pig.
Premature birth can be one of the many risk factors for audio neuropathy; Austin’s rare type of hearing loss that’s caused by a malfunction in the way nerve impulses travel from the inner ear to the brain. “When I went into labour, I was advised not to go ahead because the reality was that he wasn’t going to survive the first 24 hours, but he did,” said his mum, Thobeka Archer. “He’s a miracle baby.”
While his hearing and speech still lags behind his peers, it’s hoped the gains Austin has already made will continue to grow with intensive therapy and time. “Since we had it fitted, we have noticed a big improvement. He has already learned animal sounds and a few words,” Ms Archer said.