‘You sound like babies’

LITTLE Grace Claridge was sent into giggles as her new Cochlear implant was turned on for the first time.

It enabled her to hear sounds she had never heard before.

“She says everyone sounds like babies,” her mum, Kelly Claridge said yesterday.

The four-year-old, from Norris Park, Albury, is Australia’s youngest recipient of the state-of-art Nucleus 6 implant.

It has “SmartSound” technology that adjusts automatically to different environments, allowing less disruptions to her hearing.

Grace was born moderately to severely deaf in her right ear and severely deaf in her left.

She couldn’t hear or pronounce high-frequency sounds such as “S”.

This will change now as her brain learns to decipher the sounds from the implant over the next year.

Grace’s parents, Albury police officers Kelly and Matt, both carry the gene that caused her hearing impairment.

Yesterday they said they hoped she could now live a more fulfilling life.

“I want her to enjoy life,” Mrs Claridge said.

“I want her to go to any job or do anything she wants to.”

Mr Claridge said he hoped Grace wouldn’t be treated differently.

“We want her to live as normal a life as possible and do what every other kid does,” he said.

Mrs Claridge said Grace, who has regular speech therapy classes, was about 10 months behind children of her age at her mainstream pre-school. She hoped that would now improve.

She and Matt said Grace often became frustrated when they couldn’t understand her or she couldn’t understand them.

As Grace’s brain adjusts to the implant she received through the Shepherd Centre, her hearing will develop to the point where it is almost in the normal range.

But it will be a journey until then.

“She didn’t want to put it back on the next morning after she first used it, Mrs Claridge said.

The Claridges will slowly get Grace used to the implant giving her time with and without it.

“It’s amazing technology — we’re lucky to live in this day and age,” Mrs Claridge said.

The couple is looking forward to the day when Grace can pronounce her name of her seven-year-old brother Thomas with its tricky “S” ending.

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