Pretoria twins Melissa and Shanice Lewis were born deaf and received their first hearing aids at the age of two. Over the past few years, however, their hearing loss became too profound for the sisters to benefit from hearing aid amplification.
Comprehensive audiological tests performed at the Ear Institute in Pretoria's Cochlear Implant Division determined that the 21-year-old twins were both good candidates for cochlear implantation.
The costs of the implants were a huge obstacle and the operation is not fully covered by medical aid companies, resulting in an enormous outstanding amount needed in order to proceed.
“Depending on the type of device, the total costs for a cochlear implant can differ between R250 000 and R400 000 per implant - doctors’ fees included," said Erika Basson, the manager of the Foundation for Children with Hearing Loss in Southern Africa.
The Foundation raises funds for patients who are approved for cochlear implants by Ear Institutes across South Africa. “Without donations, this life-changing procedure will only remain a dream for a number of patients,” said Basson.
Finally, thanks to a generous donation from an anonymous donor, as well as a percentage medical aid contribution, the Lewis twins finally received the gift of hearing on May 14. On 15 June, when their devices were switched on, they were finally able to hear sound via a cochlear implant for the first time.
Now they can finally hear people's whispers and speculation about whether they are actually twins. The sisters also stand a better chance of integrating into a hearing society and becoming fully independent adults.
“They both showed amazing reaction to environmental sounds and we look forward to their progress ahead until they can hear to their full potential,” said Dr Catherine van Dijk, head of the Cochlear Implant Division, who added that the adaptation process can take up to 12 months.
Melissa and Shanice will attend regular programming sessions as their brain and auditory system adapts to sound. Although the sisters still prefer to use sign language, the gift of hearing makes a tremendous difference to their quality of life.
The Foundation for Children with Hearing Loss in Southern Africa is appealing to the public to support their cause and help them give the gift of hearing to other deaf people. To donate, contact [email protected]/(012) 333-3130. You can also visit www.hearingloss.org.za for more information about the foundation's work.