A toddler has been able to hear for the first time after a groundbreaking remote switch-on of her cochlear implants.
Audiologists in Southampton activated the devices for 18-month-old Margarida Cibrao-Roque via the internet as they are unable to see patients in person due to Covid-19 measures.
Professor Helen Cullington said the procedure took “technical creativity”.
Margarida’s father said it had “opened a big window” for his daughter.
Margarida, who has been deaf since birth because she has Ushers Syndrome Type One, had received her cochlear implants in an earlier operation.
They are electronic devices with an external speech processor to pick up sound, which is then transmitted as electrical signals to an internal device placed inside the inner ear. The brain interprets these signals as sound.
Staff at the University of Southampton’s Auditory Implant Service (USAIS) used specialist software and were able to monitor progress via videolink to the family’s home in Camberley, Surrey.
During the switch-on levels of electrical stimulation were gradually built up and Margarida’s responses were constantly monitored.
It is hoped her new cochlear implants will, over time, help her to hear and to communicate more easily.
Margarida’s mother, Joana Cibrao said the team were “just brilliant and made it happen” despite the lockdown restrictions.
“The possibility of Margarida calling me mummy one day would mean the world,” she said.
“We will be able to speak with our daughter, to play with her – she will be able to watch TV, things that you take for granted she doesn’t have, so you know, this is a victory really.”