Little Elle needs cochlear implants

Elle Arendse needs the gift of hearing that cochlear implants will provide her with.

When Elle Arendse, 3, of Retreat, failed several hearing tests after she was born, a cochlear implant was recommended as the only way to restore her hearing.

However, it would cost her family R300 000.

To help give her daughter the gift of hearing, her mother Abigail started a Back-a-Buddy campaign to raise funds.

Ms Arendse said Elle failed a hearing test at two weeks old and then she failed again at three months old. “At five months they gave her hearing aids but that also didn’t help as her hearing loss deteriorated and she had to have cochlear implants.”

Jenny Perold, the co-ordinator of and chief audiologist at Tygerberg Hospital’s Cochlear Implant Unit, explained that cochlear implant consists of an internal device which stimulates the hearing nerve directly, thereby passing the damaged cochlea (inner ear), and an externally worn sound processor which collects the sound and converts it into an electrical signal. The sound processor transmits the electrical signal through the skin to the implant, she added.

Lynn Cloete, of the Carel du Toit Centre for children with hearing impairment, which Elle attends, said the centre, based at Tygerberg Hospital, tests babies immediately after they are born. Several tests later Elle was diagnosed with profound hearing loss, she said. “Elle will need implants in both ears and the parents are working hard on having this operation done as soon as possible.”

Ms Arendse said they have been advised that the operation should be done at the end of May, at Mediclinic Cape Gate.

When asked at what age the operation should be done, Ms Perold said “the earlier the better”.

For children born with bilateral severe to profound hearing loss the optimal time is between six months to 1 year, she said. And if the listening part of the brain has not received sound before the age of three years the window of opportunity for learning to hear closes.

“Children who have had auditory input and have learned some spoken language will still benefit if implanted when older, however, we know that early implantation leads to the best outcomes in terms of learning spoken language.

“In Elle’s case implantation can be considered a neurodevelopmental emergency as this window of opportunity is closing to ensure the best outcome possible.”

Ms Perold said: “Carel du Toit Centre offers family-centred therapy (for example working through her parents) to teach Elle to learn listening and spoken language.”

Ms Arendse said while Elle speaks, she does not pronounce words correctly.

If you can help Ms Arendse, contact her on 074 600 3758 or visit BackABuddy.