Implants power Izaac s speech
Izaac Coubrough listens to music on his iPad. 10 years ago Izaac became the youngest child in WA to have a cochlear implant. Picture: Michael Wilson/The West Australian

Almost 10 years ago, cheeky Izaac Coubrough's eyes lit up in wonder as heard the sound of his own voice for the first time.

Today, he barely bats an eyelid as he listens to his favourite music - an achievement only made possible by cochlear implant technology that has revolutionised hearing aids over the past 25 years.

And for a child born with profound hearing loss who otherwise would have struggled to talk normally, Izaac now has near-perfect speech, so clear he has been chosen to be a WA ambassador in a national speech contest next month.

Izaac Coubroughreacts to sound for the first time in the audiology dept. at PMH after his cochlear implant was turned on. File picture: The West Australian
He had to wait until he was eight months to hear most sounds, when the external speech processor unit of an implant in his right ear was switched on at Princess Margaret Hospital in April, 2004.

At the time, he was the youngest child in WA to be implanted with the device, which electronically stimulates the hearing nerves of the inner ear and is designed to mostly help people with severe to profound hearing loss. He later had a second implant in his left ear so he could hear "in stereo".

Although the sounds heard through implants are not the same as those picked up by normal hearing, the Australian- invented technology allows even the most profoundly deaf to hear the softest sounds, such as the "s" in speech or the quiet hissing of car air-conditioning.

Children with profound hearing loss, the most severe type, often lag years behind other children in language ability.

Izaac, who is now in Year 5 at Mel Maria Catholic Primary School in Attadale, also owes much of his progress to the Telethon Speech and Hearing Centre, where he has been attending since his deafness was diagnosed at six weeks of age.

The centre still supports him in mainstream schooling.

His mother Rachel said she had to pinch herself about how far Izaac had come.

Despite initials fears about how well he would talk, he is taking part in the inaugural Power of Speech competition on March 6 at the National Press Club in Canberra.

The event will showcase 12 children from Australia and New Zealand who have had a cochlear implant.

"He is pretty excited and practising his speech, and keeps watching the news to see what the politicians and ministers are up to," Mrs Coubrough said.

But Izaac is most happy just being a normal kid.

"He just gets on with things, and can pretty much do whatever other kids do, even going in the water for a swim because his processors have waterproof covers now," she said.

"We're grateful to all the people who have helped him get to this point."

The West Australian

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