Brothers have bionic ears

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TWO Rugby brothers who were born profoundly deaf have successfully had their second ‘bionic’ ears fitted.

Joshua and Ben Merrigan were freed from their world of silence when they had aural implants fitted 13 years ago.

They were aged three-and-a-half and 22 months respectively when they underwent five hour operations at Queens Medical Centre in Nottingham.

The Lawrence Sheriff School students, who live in Boswell Road, seemed destined to live in a world without sound, but have adapted well to their implants.

The boys, now aged 16 and 14, are excelling at school and are already on grade 7 and 5 piano.

Their mother Helen said their second operation, due to take place at the same hospital this week, will further improve their quality of life.

She said: “It will be hard work for a while but it will be worth it.

“The second implant will mean they are able to pick out who is speaking more clearly in a group, which is really important at their ages.”

The process involves inserting tiny electrodes deep in the inner ear, within the cochlea, which are attached to a tiny receiver.

A signal is then sent to a speech processor which converts the sounds into signals and sends it back to the electrode, stimulating the nerve endings and acting as a substitute ear.

“I was devastated when we first discovered the boys were profoundly deaf,” said Helen.

“I really believed their quality of life would be drastically reduced.”

Helen and her husband, John, were thrown into the medical world after their sons’ diagnoses and immediately learned sign language to enable them to communicate.

John said: “We are immensely proud of the boys and how well they’ve adapted.

“They have to work that bit harder than everyone else, but it’s really paying off.”

Joshua and Ben are just like any other teenagers.

They enjoy sports and Playstation games and would both like to go to university.

“We can’t tell you how the implant has changed our lives because we don’t know life without them,” said Joshua.

The family feel every profoundly deaf child should be given the opportunity to have the treatment, which initially cost £27,500 with an extra £50,000 over a four-year period on speech therapy.