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A child's last Hope for hearing

Hope enjoying time in the garden at home
Hope enjoying time in the garden at home

Parents Becky and Oliver Dennis were devastated to learn that their daughter Hope was profoundly deaf. “We felt disbelief when we were told she was profoundly deaf.” Dad Oliver explains, “We didn’t understand what it meant until it was explained that a jumbo jet could land behind Hope and she wouldn’t react. After learning that, the truth hit home: Becky held it together much better than me, I was a complete mess.”

Thankfully, Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children (GOSH) in London’s Cochlear Implant Programme (CIP) was able to offer a solution to Hope’s hearing problems; bilateral cochlear implants. “Cochlear implants can give a sensation of sound to profoundly and totally deaf children unable to hear with even the most powerful hearing aids,” Dr Rajput, consultant audivestibular physician and Hope’s consultant, explains. “They do not cure a child’s deafness, but they can provide a useful sensation of hearing sound, allowing children to understand and interact with the sounds around them.”

Hearing for Hope

Together the family went on a journey from diagnosis to implantation, supporting and encouraging Hope through the transition and helping her learn how to manage her cochlear implants. Today, Hope attends a mainstream school, and Becky and Oliver are proud of her achievements; “Hope is doing amazingly well - people are amazed to learn she technically ‘deaf’. The Cochlear Implant Programme have allowed Hope to be the person she always had the potential to be, and not be limited by a disability.” Here the family tell the story of their family’s journey.

On July 4th 2011 Hope became one of the youngest children to receive bilateral cochlear implants. The surgery was performed by Ear, Nose and Throat Surgeon Mr Ben Hartley, with multidisciplinary members of the CIP supporting Hope before and after the surgery. “We felt a mixture of relief and of course fear and trepidation at the time.” Mum Becky states, “The cochlear implants might not have given her access to the sounds she needed, and they were only half the story. Hope would need lots of support and help to learn how to use them.” Cochlear implants work by stimulating the auditory nerve, bypassing the damaged hair cells that cause sensorineural hearing impairments in children. “Within days of having her cochlear implants turned on we noticed Hope responding to every day sounds like doors slamming and dog barking. We found so much joy in these simple things.”

Finding Hope

“Hope is doing amazingly well.” Oliver continues, “she attends a mainstream school; she is chatty, confident, clearly-spoken and articulate. Many people are amazed to learn that she is technically ‘deaf’ – a label we feel is no longer applicable to her. Wearing, using, charging and maintaining Hope’s implants – or “magic ears” as they are known in our household – is so easy and hassle-free and makes so little demand on us and yet it gives Hope so much.”

“Hope spoke at the ‘Power for Speech’ presentation this year hosted by Auditory Verbal UK. The presentation aimed to challenge the perception of deafness and deaf children. She was the youngest of nine children chosen to speak and address a specially selected group of influential figures such as policy makers and MPs.”

Becky says, “It is hard to express the huge admiration and gratitude and respect we have for all the team at GOSH. Not a day goes by when we don’t think about how different Hope’s life is now, thanks to them.”

There is Hope after all

“Cochlear implantation, together with speech and language therapy – and constant communication with your child – can bring incredible results and the best possible outcome: a confident, happy child.” Explains Becky. Both Becky and Oliver have chosen to offer advice for parents in a similar situation, knowing that cochlear implants can make a huge difference to a child’s life. “Don’t hesitate. We know it’s scary putting a young child through surgery, and have spoken at great length to families who are considering cochlear implantation. Yes, there are risks, but these risks are handled and minimised by expert teams and are outweighed by allowing a child access to the hearing world.”

“It really cannot be stressed enough that cochlear implants are an incredible, life-changing piece of technology, but that it is only half the solution to the problem of hearing loss.” Oliver stresses, “The more you put in to habilitate your child into the hearing world, the more they will get back.”

All about GOSH

The Cochlear Implant Programme (CIP) is made up of a team of dedicated multi-disciplinary professionals. The CIP team is comprised of audiologists, speech and language therapists, psychologists, teachers of the deaf, a hearing therapist and the administrative team. Co-ordinated by a consultant audiological physician, it is one of the largest paediatric cochlear implant teams in the UK and is based in a world-renowned centre for the care of children. From the outset the team has developed a holistic, child centred approach which has enabled it to help profoundly deaf children who are unable to derive benefit from conventional hearing aids, some of whom have more complex medical histories. In particular, a dedicated programme has been developed to meet the needs of deaf-blind children. When the service started in 1992, the audiology department hoped to fit 12 cochlear implants a year. Today, around 100 procedures are carried out each year.

Great Ormond Street Hospital in London is recognised as one of the few truly world-class hospitals for children. As a global leader, GOSH has top clinical and research experts working every day to find new and better ways to treat children. While breakthroughs and medical expertise are essential to the treatment of patients, GOSH also places great emphasis on the support and care provided for children by nurturing an open and supportive atmosphere, ensuring that parents and patients are well informed and closely involved in the treatment process. Children receive the highest standards of care and attention from the expert team of medical and support staff during their stay at GOSH, and are always treated with respect, trust, concern and openness.

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