Natalie Akoorie

Natalie Akoorie is a reporter at the NZ Herald based in Hamilton.

Implant best hearing hope

Parents raising money for surgery for son, aged 7, who is profoundly deaf in one ear.

Liz Warrington is raising money for her son Louis Cheftel, who is profoundly deaf in one ear, to get a cochlear implant. Picture / Dean Purcell
Liz Warrington is raising money for her son Louis Cheftel, who is profoundly deaf in one ear, to get a cochlear implant. Picture / Dean Purcell

Louis Cheftel knows he needs surgery to fix his "broken" ear.

The 7-year-old Auckland schoolboy, who was born prematurely with severe to profound deafness in one ear, is likely to be the first child in the country to have a cochlear implant for single-sided deafness.

Until recently there was no evidence to show single-sided deafness was improved by a cochlear implant.

However, a trial in Perth found participants with unilateral deafness who had an implant had significantly improved speech perception scores - comparable to a person with normal hearing.

His parents, Hubert Cheftel and Liz Warrington, are trying to raise $30,000 to pay for the implant, surgery and auditory lessons.

The surgery is not government funded because children and adults with unilateral deafness are not considered as urgently in need as those who are deaf in both ears.

Ms Warrington said their hope was to give Louis the surgery before his eighth birthday in November.

Louis' language development was slightly delayed and because of the difficulty he can experience hearing in noisy situations, he often prefers his own company.

"He's really good at school and has a lot of support. He's a good reader but the comprehension level is a bit below. Sometimes he's just in his own little world because it's easier."

Since he was 3, Louis has worn a bone-anchored hearing aid but Ms Warrington believed the implant would be a better solution.

They have chosen an Advanced Bionics cochlear implant because Louis has a mild hearing loss in his other ear and the implant can be linked to a hearing aid.

Once the implant is inserted Louis' deaf ear will hear sounds electronically, which will take time for his brain to learn to recognise.

"He'll have to mix that up with the normal hearing he'll hear on the other side," Ms Warrington said. "It's harder for the brain to readapt to hearing those two sounds but I liken it to learning a new language."

Louis was aware of plans for the surgery. "We've just said that we want to fix the ear on the other side because it's broken and we want to make it work again."

Auckland cochlear implant surgeon and ear, nose and throat specialist Michel Neeff said the Perth study suggested an implant in a single-sided deaf patient could increase understanding in noisy environments, improve directional hearing and give an overall better hearing experience.

On the web
givealittle.co.nz/cause/Louiseartohear

- NZ Herald

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