Joint healthcare initiative brings a world of sound to deaf toddler

Cape baby gets cochlear implant on World Hearing Day

Friday, March 4 2016

Thanks to a collaboration between the private and public health sectors, 15-month-old Fayaaz Otto of Cape Town, who was born with a profound hearing impairment, yesterday received a cochlear implant that will bring the joy of sound into his life for the very first time.

Professor James Loock, an ear, nose and throat (ENT) surgeon of the Department of Otorhinolaryngology at Tygerberg Hospital Stellenbosch University Cochlear Implant Unit, undertook a procedure at Netcare N1 City Hospital in Cape Town to implant the cochlear device, which is designed to assist deaf patients to hear.

Prof Loock, who performed the operation on little Fayaaz on World Hearing Day, 3 March, said that that he was pleased with the outcome of the procedure. He explained that the device will be turned on in four weeks’ time, once Fayaaz had fully recovered from the operation.

According to Prof Loock, each patient reacts differently to a cochlear implant and the success of the operation depends on how well the patient responds to both the procedure itself and all-important follow-up therapies. However, he expects the operation to be life changing for Fayaaz who was born with profound hearing impairment, which means that he had such a high degree of deafness that ordinary hearing aids were not of assistance to him.

The boy’s father, Shiraaz Smith, and mother, Yusrah Otto, say that they would not have been able to afford the operation for their son, and it would not have been possible without the support of the 94.7 Bidvest Hear for Life Trust, Tygerberg Hospital Stellenbosch University Cochlear Implant Unit, Carel du Toit Centre and the Netcare Foundation. Bidvest Hear for Life Trust funded the R272 000 cochlear device, while the Netcare Foundation funded the theatre costs and follow-up scans at Netcare N1 City Hospital.

“We are so excited that Fayaaz was able to have the operation, which is important to his development and future wellbeing, and are grateful to these organisations for making it possible,” says Smith. “We would also like to convey our thanks to Professor Loock and anaesthetist, Dr Simon Christie, for providing their time and expertise free-of-charge. We have been overwhelmed by the generosity and care that we have received.”

Surida Booysen, an audiologist at the Carel du Toit Centre and Tygerberg Hospital Stellenbosch University Cochlear Implant Unit, says that individuals who have a cochlear implant are not able to hear in the way that people with normal hearing do, but the implant can allow them to hear speech and sounds from their environment and learn to identify these. Many patients can go on to have conversations without having to resort to lip-reading and are able to lead full lives.

“The earlier the device can be implanted in a child such as Fayaaz, the better,” observes Booysen. “Deafness can have a profound impact on the development of a child, while early implantation will give Fayaaz a chance to learn how to interpret sounds from a young age. We are therefore delighted that this joint initiative made it possible for him to have the device implanted.”

“Fayaaz will require intensive follow-up speech and listening therapies in the years to come, which we at the Carel du Toit Centre will be providing. We are also training his parents, so that they will be able to assist in Fayaaz’s speech development.”

The Carel du Toit Centre offers a comprehensive service to teach hearing impaired children to speak through natural learning experiences and parental guidance. The aim of the centre’s intervention is for hearing impaired children to enter mainstream schools and have adequate spoken language to integrate into the hearing society.

World Hearing Day 2016 has the theme “Childhood hearing loss: act now, here is how!” It aims to draw attention to the fact that in the majority of cases hearing loss in children can be prevented through public health measures. “Fayaaz is a perfect example of this,” says Booysen. “His mother had German measles while pregnant with him, and an illness that could have been prevented has caused his deafness.”

According to Booysen, it was clear that Fayaaz suffered from profound hearing loss and that he urgently required an implant to prevent his development from being impeded. “After Fayaaz was assessed and deemed a good candidate, we approached 94.7 Bidvest Hear for Life Trust and Netcare N1 City Hospital, both of which did not hesitate to offer assistance.”

The 94.7 Bidvest Hear for Life Trust was established by Primedia’s 94.7 Highveld Stereo and Bidvest to provide financial assistance to children in need of a cochlear implant, a procedure that can be prohibitively expensive. The 94.7 Hear for Life Trust considers for treatment patients who have severe hearing loss that does not benefit from a hearing aid, and who do not have the support of a medical aid.

Mande Toubkin, Netcare’s general manager emergency, trauma, transplant and corporate social investment says: “Fayaaz’s story is very special and the Netcare Foundation, Netcare’s corporate social investment arm, was honoured to be able to support this procedure, which will enable him to journey to the world of sound. The Netcare Foundation is involved in a number of programmes aimed at making a positive contribution to the wellbeing of individuals and communities.”

Netcare N1 City Hospital’s general manager, Anton van Wyk, says the staff at the facility felt enormously privileged to have been of assistance to the brave young Fayaaz. “We hope that the procedure will be a tremendous success and we wish him and his family a happy, healthy and fulfilled future.”


Issued by: Martina Nicholson Associates (MNA) on behalf of Netcare N1 City Hospital
Contact : Martina Nicholson, Graeme Swinney, Meggan Saville or Devereaux Morkel
Telephone: (011) 469 3016
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