Paris had worn hearing aids since she was a baby, following an NHS newborn screening test that revealed she was profoundly deaf. The hearing aids had always been enough to help her – alongside the use of sign language – but overnight, Paris lost access to the high-frequency sounds in her left ear.
After being assessed by her doctor, Paris was referred to a team at GOSH, which is a specialist centre for helping deaf children receive cochlear implants.
How cochlear implants transform sound
Unlike hearing aids, which make sound louder, cochlear implants do the work of damaged parts of the inner ear to provide sound signals to the brain. While cochlear implants don’t 'cure' deafness, they can significantly improve a child’s ability to hear, particularly high-frequency sounds such as a bird chirping.
"My family and I did some research and we found that a cochlear implant was a good option," says Paris. "When you first get the implant, sounds come out as beeps. I've been working hard to now recognise some of those beeps as phonemes (a unit of sound in speech) and some whole words!"
Growing up deaf
“Being deaf affects everyday things, like listening to the train tannoy – I don’t always understand an announcement. At school, group discussions are hard, because I don’t really know what people are saying, especially if everyone is talking at once.
“But I don’t let being deaf hold me back – I try to do everything! It’s just that sometimes I’ll need an extra bit of help and it can take me a bit longer. For example, I went water-skiing at the Bluebird Deaf Water Ski Club and the friendly signing instructors helped me communicate by signing from the side of the boat. My brother, Josh, who isn't deaf, was really quick at standing up on the skis. I took a bit more time, but because I could sign, it meant I could still take part.”
The importance of a soundproof booth
It's crucial that the Cohlear Implant team used a soundproof room in which to switch on cochlear implants. This room is vital for children and young people with hearing problems so that their ears are not overloaded when the implant is first switched on.
"I like the people who work at GOSH," says Paris. "They've always gone above and beyond to help me, particularly the hearing therapist Tina Hill, who has supported me throughout the whole process. She even visited me at school. I was anxious before my operation to insert my implant, and she gave me strategies to cope when I'm at hospital, which has really helped."
Not your average hospital
“GOSH isn’t like a normal hospital," says Paris. "There are different places you can go to take your mind off things. I like all the lights in the hospital’s restaurant, The Lagoon – it’s like a rainbow. When I was going into surgery, there were light-up animals on the wall that moved along with you.”
“For other young people who are thinking of getting a cochlear implant, I’d say it’s worth a try.”
"Paris has gained so much from having a cochlear implant," says Paris' mum, Tricia. "Her confidence has changed and she's improved her ability to access sounds in all sorts of environments. It will be the anniversary of her implant in August and she's achieved so much by working hard to improve her access to those high-frequency sounds."
To find out more details about cochlear implants read our section devoted to patients, parents and visitors