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Baby Ava hears again after internet search for cure

PUBLISHED: 17:18 19 June 2008 | UPDATED: 15:10 07 September 2010

Lauren Pearson & her Baby Daughter Ava who has had an operation to restore her hearing

Lauren Pearson & her Baby Daughter Ava who has had an operation to restore her hearing

© Nigel Sutton 17 Redington Rd,London,NW37QX. Phone 020 7794 3008. email pictures@nigelsuttonphotography.com

By Miguel Cullen A BELSIZE Park baby can hear the world for the first time after being born totally deaf. Little Ava Pearson, who is 15 months old, could hear nothing at all for almost the first year of her life. Parents Chris and Lauren Pearson were dist

By Miguel Cullen

A BELSIZE Park baby can hear the world for the first time after being born totally deaf.

Little Ava Pearson, who is 15 months old, could hear nothing at all for almost the first year of her life.

Parents Chris and Lauren Pearson were distraught to discover her deafness, after realising she wasn't responding to music and sounds and couldn't even hear police sirens whizzing down Haverstock Hill.

But she has now become one of the youngest children to undergo a life-changing operation to totally restore her hearing.

"It was devastating at first, we were in such shock. There is no history of deafness in the family," said Mrs Pearson, a 31-year-old literary agent.

"We were starting to use baby sign language to communicate. If I was wheeling her down Haverstock Hill and a siren went past, she wouldn't wake up."

Mirroring the parents of Lorenzo Odone, who was the inspiration behind true-life film Lorenzo's Oil, the Pearsons took matters into their own hands and scoured the internet for cures for their only daughter.

And earlier this year, she successfully underwent a procedure called a cochlear implant which allows the totally deaf to hear for the first time.

"The first time we realised the operation had made a difference was when she was playing with a toy that played music and started dancing," said her mum. "It was amazing."

"She's learning to speak now. The first word she said was 'Mama'.

"My favourite thing to take her to now is a music class. She loves it and dances and laughs and claps. I was probably the only mum who would be amazed when she would sway and dance to the music. It's lovely."

The family encountered long waiting lists on the NHS, so decided to go private for Ava's operation. It cost £52,000 for the implant and the ensuing speech therapy at the Portland Hospital on Great Portland Street.

Natalie Opitz, speech and language therapist in the hospital's Cochlear Department, said: "Before, Ava would have trouble hearing even trucks and planes, but now she hears voices and whispers.

"She likes imitating farmyard animals. 'Moo' and 'quack quack' are some of her favourite words.

"Its great to see her parents enjoying her progress. For instance when she's crying and she can hear her mum calling from the next room, it's a relief for Ava."

The first operation took place in January this year, and a second was carried out in May.

The cochlear implant consists of an implant and a sound processor. The sound processor is worn behind the ear while the processor picks up sound through a tiny microphone and converts it into digital signals.

The implant, which is inserted under the skin just above the ear, uses these signals to stimulate the hearing nerve, which creates the effect of sound.

A national campaign is now underway to give other people the chance which Ava had.

A spokeswoman for the Royal National Institute for Deaf People (RNID) said: "On the NHS, it is still a postcode lottery for adults who would benefit from this treatment.

"The RNID wants to see a national framework that gives equal access to all those who would benefit from a cochlear implant."

editorial@hamhigh.co.uk


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