Leia Armitage is a seven-year-old girl that lived without the ability to hear during the first two years of her life. She had a rare deafness condition which could not be remedied by simply wearing hearing aids or cochlear implants. Leia was born without an inner ear and did not have a hearing nerve, possibly suggesting a genetic disorder. Therefore, her parents did not expect her to talk at all.
Instead, she was taught sign language to make up for being unable to hear. But nonetheless, Leia's parents pushed for legislation in favor of performing complex brain surgery on deaf children, in hopes of fully restoring Leia's hearing so she can finally talk with her peers. As a response, NHS England has agreed to fund the distribution of implants for those in similar situations, who were born with hearing loss.
How Brain Surgery Implants Repair Hearing Loss
This type of brain surgery requires placing an auditory brainstem implant where the inner ear connects to the eardrum. The implant helps stimulate hearing pathways so that the patient doesn't need a working inner ear in order to process sound input. Auditory brainstem implants were developed to treat many kinds of neural and inner ear abnormalities.
The device is inserted into the brain of children who were born without a cochlea to filter out sounds. It includes a microphone and sound transmitting unit which must be worn on their heads. Electric impulses are sent across the ear canal to produce sounds, despite the patient being still hearing impaired. The outcomes are not always consistent, though speech therapists believe younger children fare better when using the implant.
The Potential to Restore Hearing in Children without an Inner Ear Nerve
As for Leia, she had a second chance thanks to the Guy's and St Thomas' Foundation. Now, she has no problem hearing the sound of horns beeping and train doors closing. Leia is making a speedy recovery through plenty of supervised speech and language therapy. She can even talk in full sentences, gaining confidence in her ability to sing along to music or speak on the phone.
For the first time, Leia was excelling in school next to hearing children, with the support of sign language assistants in the classroom. Her parents were especially proud of the day she told them how much she loved them before being tucked into bed. Thanks to advancements in surgery equipment, Leia is experiencing new auditory sensations every day.
If interested in learning more about this and related topics, visit the Healthcare section of our blog.
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