The joy of sound

Giulia’s three-year-old son, Max, was born almost completely deaf in both ears. She tells us about coming to Great Ormond Street Hospital and how he reacted to being able to hear for the first time in his life.

“Max was my first baby and when they did hearing tests at two weeks old, they discovered he was almost totally deaf in both ears,” says Giulia. “The quietest thing he’d be able to hear would be a plane taking off next to him. Thinking he might never know my voice was heart-breaking.”

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

Max 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 Max, the team at GOSH – led by Consultant Audiological Physician Dr Kaukab Rajput – felt he was likely to benefit from bilateral cochlear implants in both his ears. GOSH is a specialist centre for helping deaf children receive these implants – high-tech devices that turn sound into tiny electrical signals, so young brains can learn to listen.

Hearing takes time

When he was around one year old, Max had a six-hour operation to fit his cochlear implants. A few weeks later, he and his family returned to GOSH to have his implants activated. 

“When we switch on a child’s cochlear implants, it’s vital that we don’t overload their tiny ears,” says Catherine Broxholme, Lead Audiologist for Cochlear Implants. “That’s why a soundproof room is essential. Many children have never heard sound before in their life.”

“I felt really nervous but also excited for Max,” says Giulia. “When they switched the implants on, Max looked surprised and really happy. He could hear a toy being banged on a table and he clapped his hands and smiled. 

“My heart just melted! Since then he’s learned to hear and speak amazingly well.”

Max smiles on the trampoline in his back garden.

One room. Thousands of children

Sadly, the passage of time has seen the soundproofing on the team’s current room begin to fail, so it no longer meets modern needs. Worse still, the team are in a race against time because, after the age of around three, young brains can no longer learn to hear.

“Max’s dad, Julien, and I feel so lucky that he was able to go to GOSH. But I know that there are so many other children who need help and that if they’re born deaf, they need implants before the age of two or three for really good results. 

“Each room can help up to six children every day, so over the coming years, that’s thousands of children and families whose lives will be totally transformed.”

Help give more children the joy of sound

You can help other deaf children like Max by donating to our Room to Hear Appeal to fund a new cochlear implant sound booth.

I'd like to donate