Ronan’s listening in with rare new ear implant
"I CAN tell straight away that he can hear things."
The joy in Sarah Bell's voice is palpable when she talks of the life-changing development which has finally given her six-year-old son Ronan the same opportunity as other kids.
Ronan, of Diddillibah, is only the second child in Queensland to be implanted with Cochlear's BAHA Attract System, a bone-conducting hearing aid.
Ronan was born with single-sided deafness. The auditory nerve in his right ear failed to develop, meaning the ear will never be able to pick up sound.
The new technology uses bone conduction in the right ear and transports the sounds to his properly functioning left ear, eliminating the "head shadow''.
Mrs Bell said the difference in her son was phenomenal. "He's a lot more confident at answering questions now," she said.
Roxanne Innes, an auditory-verbal therapist at the Hear and Say Centre in Nambour, said the technology would help Ronan immensely.
"Ronan's a very clever boy and he's made good use of the hearing he did have on his left side," she said.
Ms Innes said identifying single-sided deafness could prove quite difficult for many people.
"One of the difficult things with single-sided deafness is it's not easy to see which side works and which side doesn't. It's not like a broken leg which is quite clear to see," she said.
"Unfortunately hearing loss can be interpreted as all types of things, including learning difficulty."
A proud Mrs Bell said Ronan's situation had never bothered him. She said the social young lad managed to get on with his life without fuss despite his difficulties.
"Children sometimes tease him about his hearing aid but it's never bothered him... he just takes it in his stride," she said.
"His brother (Rory, 8) and sister (Eilish, 6) are both really proud of him and they both want to help him.
"They've always been really protective, especially his twin sister."