Tiny tech transforms life of Tonbridge schoolboy
Six-year-old Max Maidment was one of the youngest children in the UK to have a cochlear implant fitted when he was just one-year-old.
Now, thanks to his implant and dedicated support from the Kent Community Health NHS Foundation Trust’s children’s speech and language therapy team, Max is a loud and lively boy.
His mum Sam said: “Max failed the newborn hearing test and that’s not uncommon, but then when he was tested again two weeks later we were told he was profoundly deaf. We were shocked and devastated. It’s not genetic but just one of those things.”
Max was fitted with hearing aids but when these showed no signs of working the family were referred to Great Ormond Street Hospital for him to have cochlear implants. As of March 2017, there were 5,783 children in the UK with a cochlear implant.
Sam said: “It’s not been easy and it’s taken a long time for his speech to catch up to where it should be. He also rejected them just before he started school so he spent the start of reception year using signs. We had to return to GOSH and start all over again with the implants.”
KCHFT’s speech and language therapists have been working with Max since he was one to help him with his communication skills. He sees a member of the speech and language therapy team once a week at his school, Slade Primary in Tonbridge.
Specialist Speech and Language Therapist Gaynor Evans said: “Max has made incredible progress, particularly during the past year and his speech is understandable to the majority of people.
“He is now talking in simple sentences and our aim is to further develop both his understanding and use of spoken language.
“Cochlear implants have been available to deaf children for about 30 years now; before this, profoundly deaf children were given hearing aids, which often didn’t give them sufficient access to spoken language, so this technology has opened up the communication options for children like Max, which is fantastic.”
Mum Sam said: “To hear him laugh, chatter and be his noisy, energetic self now is music to our ears.”
A cochlear implant works by turning sound into electrical signals and sending them to part of the inner ear called the cochlea. From here, the signals travel to the brain and are heard as sound.
The implant has two main parts: a microphone behind the ear that picks up sound and changes it into electrical signals, which are sent along a wire to a device on the skin, and a device placed inside the skull that picks up the electrical signals from the device on the skin and sends them along wires to the cochlea. The implant will only work if the nerve that sends sound to the brain (auditory nerve) is working properly.