Patients who can hear thanks to cochlear implant surgery celebrate 1000th child to be treated at GOSH

30 Jun 2015, 1:01 p.m.

Patients, families and medical staff came together for a celebratory event at LEGOLAND® Windsor Resort to mark the 1000th deaf patient to be treated with cochlear implants by Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH).

Profoundly deaf one-year-old boy Maxime Foussadier from Ealing was the 1000th child to have the pioneering surgery that will enable him to hear and learn to speak. Maxime, mum Giulia and dad Julien joined hundreds of other GOSH families and hospital staff to mark the ground-breaking milestone during a fun-filled day at LEGOLAND® Windsor Resort.

16-year-old Megan Duke enjoyed meeting other families to share her experience of how cochlear implants had transformed her life. Megan, who has just finished her exams for 12 GCSEs, said: “I had meningitis when I was little and gradually lost my hearing, but I had cochlear implant surgery in one ear aged 3 and the other at 10 and it’s changed my life. I feel so much more confident and I’ve even been inspired to think about a career in medicine.”

Maxime reacted with curiosity as a toy was banged on the table at his 'switch on' appointment this week where he heard for the first time. Speaking at the LEGOLAND® Windsor Resort celebration event, Maxime’s mum Giulia said:

“It was incredibly exciting to see Max react to sound and meeting older children today who have been living with cochlear implants for many years has just shown us how life-changing this operation can be. It will open up so many possibilities for Max. He will be able to learn to speak like a hearing child. I’m from Italy and my partner is French so we’re hoping he might even become multilingual, which would be simply unthinkable without cochlear implants.”

Dr Kaukab Rajput, lead of GOSH’s Cochlear Implant Department, said:

“Maxime’s surgery represents a huge milestone for Great Ormond Street and what better to way to mark the occasion than to bring so many patients, families and staff together to celebrate.

“Things have changed dramatically since our first procedure in 1992. The introduction of newborn hearing screening tests in 2006 mean we can now identify and treat deaf patients much sooner and perform cochlear implant surgery before they even reach their first birthday, giving them the best chance to learn to speak like a typically developing child. If there is such a thing as a miracle in medicine, then cochlear implants must surely be one of them.”

GOSH is one of the largest paediatric centres in the UK to provide cochlear implants. When the service started in 1992, the audiology department hoped to fit 12 cochlear implants a year. Today, around 100 procedures are carried out each year.

Cochlear implants can give a sensation of sound to profoundly and totally deaf children unable to hear even with the most powerful hearing aids. The electronic systems stimulate the auditory nerve directly, bypassing the hair cells in the cochlea that usually facilitate hearing. The effects can transform patients’ lives, as they gradually understand the sounds around them. Many learn to talk and the majority follow speech without needing to lip-read.

Maxime’s story

After failing his newborn hearing tests, Maxime had hearing aids fitted at just eight weeks old but although this gave him access to sound at low frequencies, he was still profoundly deaf.

Maxime was referred to GOSH in September 2014 and was subsequently diagnosed with Connexin 26, the most common genetic cause of deafness in children.

After carefully assessing Maxime the team at GOSH, led by Dr Kaukab Rajput, felt he was likely to benefit from bilateral cochlear implants in both his ears.

Two weeks after his first birthday Maxime was admitted to GOSH for a six-hour operation. The surgeon made an incision behind one ear before drilling through the bone to the cochlear to create a ‘bed’ for the implant, which was then inserted using a microscope. The same process then took place for the other ear. Maxime quickly recovered from the surgery and was discharged home the next day.

Two weeks after surgery, Maxime returned to GOSH for an important appointment: the switching-on of his new cochlear implants. Audiologist James Sharp gradually activated each implant to establish Maxime’s level of hearing, then programmed the processor so that the volume of sound would be comfortable and not too overwhelming. Maxime looked on curiously as a toy was banged on the table and touched each of his ears as they began to gently tingle, a sure sign that the implants were working.

It was an emotional moment for Guilia: “We’ve faced a real rollercoaster of emotions over the past year, from the uncertainty of not knowing what was causing Maxime’s hearing problems to the news that he might be suitable for cochlear implants. We’ve waited so long for this day and now it’s real. It was incredibly exciting to see Max react to sound. It’s the first step on an exciting journey for all of us.”

Maxime’s parents have now been trained in how to use the cochlear implants, and Maxime will follow a programme of speech and language therapy to ensure he can adapt and make the most of this technology.