Watch the moment a deaf baby is able to hear again thanks to GOSH

Alfie Morgan-Connolly was recently fitted with a cochlear implant at the hospital after being born with a congenital defect

Sebastian Mann,Jenny Marc
Saturday 06 February 2016 23:25 GMT
Toddler hears for first time at GOSH

Like any little boy, Alfie Morgan-Connolly delights at the sight of a shower of blown bubbles. But he was born with virtually no hearing due to a congenital defect, and while his twin Jack is learning to speak, Alfie is being taught to sign.

Last week, however, at 16 months, this little patient made the first step on what his parents described as a “life-changing” journey, as his new bilateral cochlear implants were switched on for the first time.

In a small room at Great Ormond Street Hospital, the restless youngster sat on his nervous father’s knee while an audiologist cautiously turned on the device connected to his right ear.

Visibly intrigued, he stopped playing to press his right hand to the side of his head where the state-of-the-art piece of kit was helping him to hear his first sounds.

It came two weeks after an operation to embed the two costly devices in his head just above his ears, in a bid to treat his profound deafness.

His father Michael Morgan said the experience marked “day zero” in his son’s development into a hearing child. “The cochlear implants mean that he can lead what we would describe as a normal life, that he’ll be able to speak with us and his wider family,” he said. “It should mean that he’ll be able to go to a mainstream school.

“There’s a long way to go, but hopefully, eventually, he’ll get to the place where he can speak to his brother. Perhaps one day we won’t be able to shut them up.”

Alfie’s parents Mr Morgan and Joanna Connolly, from St Albans, Hertfordshire discovered their son was deaf when he was a few weeks old. Tests established his condition was profound, and within months he had been referred to GOSH for treatment.

Cochlear implants are a common solution to the level of deafness experienced by Alfie. They are implanted beneath the scalp on the side of the head, with a cable connecting to the cochlea in the inner ear, the organ that interprets sound and sends signals to the brain.

On the outside, processors operating like microphones hang from the membrane of the outer ear and pick up sound, which is transmitted to the implant via a “coil” on the outside of the head connected to the sub-cutaneous device by a magnet.

The treatment is most effective when children are younger and haven’t missed out on the critical stage of language acquisition, said audiologist Catherine Broxholme, who supervised Alfie’s switch-on.

“Access to sound is pretty much certain,” she said. “How much use they are going to make of it for language depends on rehabilitation.”

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