Toddler hears for first time after implant activated despite lockdown

London, Apr 24 (efe-epa).- A toddler in the United Kingdom was able to hear for the first time after medics switched on her cochlear implant remotely during lockdown.

Audiologists from the University of Southampton found a way around the restrictions imposed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus pandemic to give 18-month-old Margarida Cibrao-Roque the gift of hearing.

They managed to activate her implant over the internet while she was confined to her home in Camberley, southern England, in a first for the UK.

Experts managed to establish an internet connection to allow them to turn the device on and the little girl was able to hear for the first time, even though the clinic at the university complex is closed to patients.

Professor Hellen Cullington, from the university’s hearing implant service, oversaw the procedure from her own home.

She said in a statement: “Usually we do the switch-on of a cochlear implant at our clinic at the university but, with some technical creativity and some advice from colleagues in Australia, we were able to do everything necessary over the internet.

“At switch-on, a child begins wearing their processors for the first time, and they are able to hear what is around them.

“However, it takes a long time to get used to this and, especially in babies and children who have never heard before, the brain has to learn to understand these sounds.”

She added that the procedure went “really well” and that everyone was “delighted” with the result.

A cochlear implant is an electronic device that uses microphones in an external receiver to pick up sounds, which are transmitted through electrical signals to an electrode that has been inserted into the patient’s inner ear by surgery.

When the implant is activated the electrical stimuli are increased very slowly and gradually to check the child’s reaction and the response of their auditory nerve, according to the university.

The team found a way to do these tests over the internet, with a video link to track Margarida’s progress.

Margarida was born deaf due to Usher syndrome, a condition that can cause hearing loss due to abnormalities in the inner ear.

Her mother Joana Cibrao thanked the team for their “brilliant” work.

“The possibility of Margarida calling me Mummy one day would mean the world,” she added.

“We will be able to speak with our daughter, to play with her, she will be able to watch TV, things that you take for granted she doesn’t have, so you know, this is a victory really.”

The team will monitor Margarida’s progress and hope to be able to activate more cochlear implants remotely in the coming weeks. EFE-EPA


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