An 18-month-old girl heard for the first time after doctors became the first in the country to light a cochlear implant from a distance.
Audiologists from the University of Southampton have set up an Internet connection to allow the device to be switched on for the young Margarida Cibrao-Roque, despite the closure of their patient clinic.
Professor Helen Cullington, of the University’s hearing implant service, powered up her home by connecting remotely with Margarida’s parents at their home in Camberley, Surrey, after the coronavirus the epidemic prevented them from going to the hospital.
She said: “Usually we are putting in place a cochlear implant in our university clinic but, with some technical creativity and some advice from colleagues in Australia, we were able to do whatever was necessary on Internet.
“The session went very well and everyone was delighted with the result. “
A cochlear implant is an electronic device that uses microphones on an external speech processor to pick up sound, which is then transmitted as electrical signals to an internal device placed inside the inner ear during an operation. The brain interprets these signals as sound.
When placing an implant, the levels of electrical stimulation are defined by starting very slowly and gradually, continuously monitoring the reactions of the child or the adult.
The auditory nerve response is also measured to help define levels – especially for young children who cannot tell audiologists how loud the sound is.
Professor Cullington said, “When you turn on the power, a child starts to wear their processors for the first time, and they can hear what is around them.
“However, it takes a long time to get used to it and – especially in babies and children who have never heard of it before – the brain has to learn to understand these sounds. “
A university spokesperson said, “With ingenious thinking, the team found a way to conduct their tests on the Internet – by connecting two computers, using specialized software and hardware, and monitoring progress through video link. “
Margarida has been deaf since birth due to Ushers type 1 syndrome – a condition that causes hearing loss due to abnormalities of the inner ear – as well as a cleft palate that can affect hearing.
His mother, Joana Cibrao, said: “The Southampton team, they were incredible. I can’t really congratulate them really, the team effort – they were just great and they did it.
:: Listen to the Daily podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Spreaker
“The possibility that Margarida would call me mom one day would mean the world.
“We can talk to our daughter, play with her, she can watch TV, things you take for granted, she doesn’t have, so you know, it’s really a victory. “
Margarida’s father, Paulo Roque, added: “We are trying to do our best and have therefore opened a big window for Margarida now. All we need to do is take time step by step and we will get there, certainly. “