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First simultaneous cochlear implant operation for WA


A 25-year-old man will undergo Western Australia’s first ever simultaneous bilateral cochlear implant operation on Thursday 9 February at St John of God Hospital in Subiaco.

Danny Clarke will have two cochlear hearing devices implanted in both his ears at the same time.

Danny, who became a successful search and rescue helicopter air crewman despite losing his hearing in his right ear due to a fall at the age of 11, became permanently deaf last year after being attacked by a stranger after a night out with friends.

He was struck heavily on the face, fell and hit his head hard on the pavement, fracturing the base of his skull on his left side and lost his hearing in his remaining good ear.

Danny’s family, friends and colleagues have fundraised more than $25,000 for one cochlear implant – and the Lions Ear and Hearing Institute has donated a second implant – Danny will be able to undergo the operation.

One of Australia’s leading ear surgeons and Director of LEHI, Professor Marcus Atlas, will perform the uncommon procedure. He said the operation would give Danny the ability to hear again and restore his ability to undertake regular day-to-day activities.

"It’s pleasing for the Institute to be overseeing this type of operation – and it’s a great outcome for Danny in light of his recent hearing loss," Professor Atlas said.

"After the swelling has gone down and the surgery scar has healed around his ears – which takes about two weeks – we will activate the cochlear implants and Danny should start hearing sounds.

"The rehabilitation process takes up to 12 months of intensive mapping (programming the cochlear device) and exercises from our Audiologist, Katrise Eager, who will help Danny learn to hear sounds through the implant," he said.

Danny’s father Lex said the operation was a huge boost for his son who had been devastated at the loss of his hearing and subsequently, his job as a search and rescue helicopter air crewman.

"For the first two months following the injury, we did not know if Danny would ever hear again," Mr Clarke said.

"My wife, Chris, would repeatedly say ’All I want for my 50th birthday is a cochlear implant for my son’ – and then we found that Danny would be a good candidate for both ears to be implanted.

"On her birthday she got a call from Professor Atlas at the Lions Ear and Hearing Institute saying they would donate a second cochlear device – it was the best present she has ever had!

"We were totally gobsmacked about the donation – just absolutely thrilled to bits.

"We hope the operation will get Danny back into his work and help him communicate more easily with us and listen to music, something he misses a great deal," he said.

Professor Atlas said that Danny was one of more than 20,000 adults in Western Australia living with severe to profound hearing loss.

"As we are about to embark on this bilateral cochlear implant surgery, there is no better time for other individuals to seek out routine assessment and intervention for hearing loss.

"Many Australians are unnecessarily isolated by deafness because their hearing loss is left undetected and untreated. It is important these people understand there are greater options available for individuals whose hearing aids are no longer enabling them to live a full life," Professor Atlas said.

John Williams | EurekAlert!
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