New hope for Phuong
28. October 2019
Two and a half years have passed since then. The life of Phuong and her family has taken a positive turn since then. It's early morning in the southern Vietnamese metropolis of Ho Chi Minh City. Phuong pushes a colorful toy shopping cart through a waiting room. She has an important appointment: In the local Sonova hearing center, an audiologist will activate a cochlear implant system that Phuong received a few weeks ago during an operation and which will ensure that the girl can hear clearly in the future.
The technology, which uses electrodes to send signals to the auditory nerve which are then transmitted to the brain for recognition of sound, seemed out of reach for Phuong's family. Phuong's mother works in a textile factory and her father is a construction worker. Both are in their mid-30s and their monthly household income is an average salary in Vietnam that is not enough for major expenses. A CI system would have cost at least two and a half years of income – unaffordable for Phuong's parents.
Phuong's principal saw a way out: She told the family about the new program that the Global Foundation For Children With Hearing Loss and the Hear the World Foundation had developed. The program donates CI systems and associated surgery to children in need and Phuong's mother completed the application for her daughter to be considered for the program. An answer was not long in coming. It was positive. The girl's mother says: "That was a gift from God."
Doctors tested Phuong's health and gave the go-ahead for the operation. She left with shorn hair and an implant under her skull. After three days in the hospital post surgery, Phuong left for home and her family was feeling hopeful as they waited for the day the CI would be switched on.
On the day of activation Phuong makes a cheerful impression. She rushes through the hearing center like it's her playroom. A plastic duck arouses her interest in the audiologist's room. She plays with it while the specialist uses software to check whether the CI system is functioning properly. Then a simple mouse click is all it takes for the speech processor to start working and send the first signals to Phuong's brain via the implant. The girl seems to react to her altered perception only with a short movement of her head. The system is still set to a low level so that Phuong can get used to it. The audiologist plays sounds to the girl from different directions in the room. Phuong immediately turns her head as she hears a rattling sound to her left. The system works, Phuong is responding to the sounds.
LinksLearn more about the CI project in Vietnam.
Blogpost: When hearing aids no longer help - a father's story