Centre celebrates 25 years of bringing sound to deaf ears
Southampton’s Auditory Implant Service celebrated 25 years of helping deaf adults and children to hear on Saturday.
Since it was established in 1990, the centre (formerly known as the South of England Cochlear Implant Centre) has implanted over 1000 cochlear implants - devices that help people to regain their hearing or allow them to hear for the first time.
Current and former patients and their families gathered with staff based at the University of Southampton, to celebrate the life changing treatment and research. Guests at the event included the very first patient to receive an implant and the youngest patient with an implant today - James Wooden, aged just 14 months old.
James received his first implant in his right ear last December and now has active implants in both ears. His parents were notified that their child was profoundly deaf just weeks after his birth.
“The first signs were picked up in a routine health visit and it was confirmed later when James was referred to a specialist for further testing,” said Paula Wooden, James’ mother. “I’d heard about cochlear implants while I was pregnant, after they were featured in a story line on Hollyoaks, so I knew this was an option for James and understood what the doctors were talking about.
Cochlear implants use small electrical currents to stimulate the hearing nerve, which then sends signals to the brain where they are interpreted as sound.
Paula said: “At first it’s scary because you know that it is going to involve your baby having surgery, but the more information I received, the more convinced I was that this is what we wanted for James to give him the best opportunities in life. I knew we’d made the right choice when I saw a cheeky smile on his face the first time he turned to the sound of his name.”
The centre has developed a number of firsts in clinical treatment, including the UK’s first bilateral implant - using a single device and a connecting wire to bring sound through both ears. It has also conducted ground breaking research into speech processing, measuring hearing improvement and assessing patient quality of life.
Dr Carl Verschuur, who heads the centre said: “It’s been fantastic to celebrate the achievements of the centre together with the patients who have benefitted from cochlear implants over the past 25 years.
“We’ve witnessed some inspiring stories in that time that drive us on as we continue to research and develop new technologies and treatments in the field.”