Manitoba child thriving following infant cochlear implant surgery
WINNIPEG -- She has been called a pioneer after undergoing cochlear implant surgery at a very early age and has since paved the way for many younger Manitobans to get their ears.
Ireland Gault was the youngest Manitoban ever to be outfitted with bilateral cochlear implants.
They were turned on for the very first time when she was 11 months old back in February of 2018.
Surgeon Dr. Darren Leitao said the goal was to have her hearing before her first birthday.
"This gives her a chance to have her parents sing her Happy Birthday," said Leitao.
Since then, four birthdays have come and gone for Ireland and now she's the one singing.
Recently, mom Courtney Gault says Ireland has started working on speech.
"She's really good with vowels, and right now we are really working on the beginning of words and closing the end of words," said Courtney.
Because of the pandemic, Courtney has been doing a lot of the therapy herself and says one helpful trick is to whisper words like pop.
"She will hear the ‘P’ in the front and the back if I whisper it, as opposed to just saying pop, because of how she hears,” said Courtney.
Because Ireland's procedure proved safe and successful, 17 other Manitoba children have been outfitted with cochlear implants "We now make that our standard of care for children that are diagnosed with deafness to get them hearing before their first birthday," Leitao said.
Ireland's parents played a big role in making this a reality, according to Leitao. He said they pushed the medical team to do the surgery as soon as possible.
"When we first found out Ireland was a candidate, we had done some research in different countries of how they were implanting children as young as three to four months," said Will Gault, Ireland's father.
The biggest benefit of getting “her ears,” as she calls them, as soon as she did is that she will be going to kindergarten with other kids her age.
"Just to see her out there fitting in, it just brings such joy to us," said Will.
He says she already loves preschool and being a big sister.
"She's so kind and she's so helpful and she's the best big sister and she’s the most awesome daughter. We are so lucky to have her," said Will.
Ireland's profound deafness was found through Manitoba's universal newborn hearing screening program, which started in 2016.
Ninety-eight per cent of newborns in the province are screened through this program.