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Water play like music to Felix’s ears

01 January 2013 swimart

Water play like music to Felix’s ears

Water play like music to Felix’s ears

Many of us will have fond childhood memories of long summers spent in the pool, and the sounds of splashing water and laughter are just some of the first things to come to mind. Noises such as these are something we may take for granted, but for three-year-old Felix Williams, it’s a wonderful new discovery.

Felix is one of many cochlear implant recipients who, until now, were unable to hear whilst playing in the water. Now he can finally hear water splashing around him and listen to instructions from his family on how to swim thanks to a new device that allows him to wear his cochlear implants in the water.

Felix, from Windang on the New South Wales south coast, was born with ‘Connexin 26 deafness’, a genetic condition that meant he could face a lifetime of silence. Fitted with bilateral (two) cochlear implants at the age of five months, Felix was able to hear and speak just like any other toddler – except in the pool, where he had to remove his speech processors before entering the water, leaving him deaf to the sounds of splashing water and his mother’s calls.

"If he was about to do something silly I could never yell 'stop', so I was always hovering 10 centimetres away from him," says Jo Williams, Felix’s mother.

But this summer, Felix is overjoyed at being able to swim with his implants kept dry by the new Cochlear Nucleus Aqua Accessory, and therefore enjoy hearing all the sounds of playtime in the pool.

Jo is thrilled that Felix is now able to enjoy the backyard pool even more.

“He is laughing and participating far more with the family in the water,” she says. “The whole time in the water is so much more fun. He is no longer missing out on what’s going on when we’re all swimming and playing in the water. We thought Felix loved swimming before, but now he just won’t stop.”

Living near the water and having a pool in the backyard appears to have inspired the love Felix has had for water since he was very young. His older sister, whom Felix adores, shares this passion, and so the both of them are constantly in and out of the water.

Enhanced skills
The Aqua Accessory has also allowed Felix to further his swimming skills.

“It is so much easier to teach him and he is enjoying it much more now he can hear us in the water,” Jo says. “It also means that his sister can no longer sneak up behind him and squirt him with the water pistol – so he loves it. For us, we feel much safer having him able to hear us yell out warnings. Not that he necessarily listens, as he still thinks headfirst and backwards down the slippery dip is a good idea.”

Felix has also tried out the device under water, adds Jo, who says he “was quite amazed” at hearing sounds beneath the surface of the pool.

The Aqua Accessory is a single use plastic enclosure that completely seals in the processing unit, cable and coil of the cochlear implant.