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Cochlear implant changes Magteld's world
2009-11-06

The microphone is ready for Magteld Smith’s (second from the left) first radio interview after the cochlear implant was switched on by Mr Henk Wolmarans (right) of MedEl. With them are, from the left: Ms Vicki Fourie, Deaf Miss SA, Ms Eunika Smith from the SABC and Prof. Jonathan Jansen.
Photo: Leatitia Pienaar


Magteld Smith gave her first steps towards the world of the hearing when her cochlear implant was switched on in the Universitas Hospital this week.

A whole team was there to share her joy and disbelief and amazement the moment she could hear noises, voices and conversations. Among them were the Rector and Vice-Chancellor of the University of the Free State (UFS), Prof. Jonathan Jansen, and the acting dean of the Faculty of Heath Sciences at the UFS, Prof. Gert van Zyl.

“I can hear my own voice! I haven’t heard it for a long time. My wish is that every deaf child can get something like this,” she said while prodding Prof. Jansen to speak so that she can hear his voice.

Magteld is working at the university's Centre for Health Systems Research and Development and was deaf since birth. She lost her last bit of hearing due to meningitis last year. Her hearing aids could then not assist her to communicate and a cochlear implant was the only option.

A donation by the Austrian company MedEl made the implant possible. Prof. André Claassen, Head of the Department of Otorhinolaryngology at the UFS, says MedEl was also instrumental in the establishment of the implant programme at the Universitas Hospital and sponsored the first five implants at a total cost of R1 million.

Prof. Claassen says 27 implants have already been done here, but it came to an abrupt halt due to a lack of funds. Strong hearing aids are expensive and cochlear implants are even more expensive at R200 000 each. People with hearing disabilities must be identified at an early age as the brain’s ability to learn sound and voice diminishes after the age of three.
 

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