Waterproof device allows deaf children to hear underwater for the first time

Born profoundly deaf, Edward's face lights up as he experiences underwater sounds for the very first time

A new waterproof device that allows cochlear implant recipients to jump in the pool and hear everything their friends do has been launched in Australia.

The Cochlear™ Nucleus® Aqua Accessory seals the sound processor and coil of the implant so that it can be worn in all types of water to a depth of up to four metres.

For six year old Edward, who is profoundly deaf and is learning to listen and speak with the aid of cochlear implants, the Aqua Accessory recently opened up a new world of underwater sound.

Edward’s mum, Susan, said the first time he used the device was so special for their family.

“Edward is relishing this new discovery of underwater sounds,” said Susan. “The first time he was able to go underwater with the device, he kept ducking under and coming up shouting ‘Mum! Listen!’ The look of pure joy on his face was priceless.”

The family have had support from the Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children (RIDBC) Teleschool since Edward was three months old and, as a family, they have worked hard to help him learn language and develop speech.

“We all want our children to have the opportunity to access as much of the world as possible,” said Susan.  “Because Edward couldn’t swim with his cochlear implants, he wasn’t able to hear any underwater sounds.”

RIDBC Teleschool consultant, Neryl Horn, said the experience has helped Edward’s understanding of himself as someone who is deaf but whose cochlear implants enable him to hear.

“In our lesson following that first swimming experience, Edward’s mother made a comment about how a penguin in a picture could hear underwater just like he could now. Edward corrected her by saying, ‘No, my implants can hear underwater”.

“I thought that was a most powerful demonstration of a child coming to understand, in a new way, the difference between their natural hearing and the hearing given to them by the cochlear implant. He is able to articulate that realisation himself after experiencing the difference that the cochlear implants have made to his ability to hear sound.”

"We've had a tremendous amount of positive feedback about our world-first Aqua Accessory," said Shaun Hand, General Manager Australia and New Zealand, Cochlear Limited. "This affordable and easy-to-use solution gives Cochlear customers the opportunity to experience our industry leading technology in all types of water. Children and adults love it.

“No upgrades or wires are required, they just slip it over their Nucleus 5 sound processor and off they go. They can drive right into the ocean or the pool without compromising on the hearing performance they need for their everyday life out of the water."

RIDBC is Australia’s largest provider of services for children with hearing or vision loss, assisting thousands of children a year across Australia.  As Australia’s premier provider of training and education for professionals in the field of sensory disability, RIDBC ensures that services delivered throughout government and non-government organisations remains cutting-edge.

RIDBC relies heavily on fundraising and community support to be able to continue to make a difference in children's lives.  In order to maintain its intensive educational and research programs, the organisation needs to raise approximately $2.5 million every month.