Alex O'Brien


“Bionic” ears allow little girl hear

“Bionic” ears allow little girl hear

A new world of sound opened up for the Invercargill 2-year-old when her "bionic ears" were turned on.

Madeline, who is profoundly deaf, was the Southern Cochlear Implant Programme's first bilateral implant recipient from Southland.

The implants, known as bionic ears, provide partial hearing to the deaf.

As noise slowly began infiltrating her life, the toddler discarded her toys and a puzzled expression crossed her face.

She pointed at her ear.

"Can she hear it?"  6-year-old brother Thomas asked.

"Yes she can," pediatric audiologist Naomi Gibson replied.

Madeline's mother covered her mouth in shock while her father wiped away tears.

"She has a new world in front of her and it starts today. From now on everything is going to be different," mother Vicky Collard said.

The parents "knew something was wrong" early in their daughter's life, and an audiologist confirmed she had severe hearing loss.

Last year, Madeline lost all forms of sound and was diagnosed profoundly deaf.

Collard recalled the shock she had felt during one audio test when her daughter had continued to "happily play" while a fire alarm was blaring and every other person in the room was assigned earmuffs.

"It was quite a shock to find out she wasn't just a little girl with hearing loss, but she was actually deaf," she said.

The toddler is also developmentally delayed and suffers from poor vision. Several cysts were recently found in her head.

Despite her misfortune, Madeline has battled on in silence.

She adapted her own version of sign language and "always has a smile on her face".

"She's just such a happy wee girl and a real battler," Collard said.

Madeline's hearing impairment has resulted in her family of six learning sign language. Her elder brothers, 4 and 6, both sign "Good morning Maddie" every day.

The Invercargill family drove up to Christchurch's cochlear implant programme, based at St George's Hospital, for Madeline's implants to be switched on, and her grandparents travelled from England to witness the moment.

Watch the special moment for yourself in the video above. What do you think is the first sound she heard? Let us know what you think in the comments below.

Written by Olivia Carville. First appeared on

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