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By Louise McAuliffe | Aug 07, 2009 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

CHRIS Hani-Baragwanath Hospital's audio and ear, nose and throat department celebrated its first paediatric cochlea implant yesterday when two-year-old Monthati Makofane's device was switched on.

"As the device was activated, Monthati immediately reacted to the sound by screaming and crying as he heard noises for the first time in his life," said Dani Schlesinger, senior speech therapist at the hospital.

Born deaf, Makofane was exposed to his first sound 36 days after receiving his implant on July 1.

"Makofane will now receive intensive speech therapy to teach him to speak and identify various sounds," Schlesinger said. "He has two years of hearing to catch up. People think that there is a certain amount of pain or danger involved when receiving a cochlear implant because an operation is involved. I want people to know that it is not a dangerous or invasive surgical procedure.

"A small cut is made behind the ear and the device is implanted. This device bypasses the damaged cochlea and would give someone who is profoundly deaf access to sound.

"The patient would feel a little tender for a few days but after that there would be no pain. There are absolutely no dangers involved in receiving an implant. The actual device is like a hearing aid and will be very comfortable to wear provided it is programmed properly."

The implant costs R200000.

Schlesinger said anyone who struggled with hearing should go to the closest hospital for an assessment. "You do not need to be referred by a doctor to come and see us at Bara's audiology department, you can just walk in and make an appointment," he said.

"Once you have been assessed, we will determine the best solution for your hearing difficulties. Not everyone needs a cochlear implant, in some cases a hearing aid will suffice."

Eight cochlear implants have been performed at the hospital since 2006.

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