Tears flowed at Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town on Thursday when Tylor Baker, who was born deaf and without ears, explained how it felt to be wearing specially made silicone implants.
Three out of 10 000 children are born worldwide without ears every year.
The Strand boy’s mother Dedre Doolabh said he’d been teased mercilessly for many years.
ENT specialist at Groote-Schuur Dr Estie Meyer said Tylor asked her for ears. Although she could not promise him ears, she promised to try.
She’d previously implanted a bone-anchored hearing aid for him.
This device does not work like traditional hearings aid and cochlear implants, in that it sends sound directly to the cochlea in the inner ear via the skull.
Dr Estie Meyer approached Professor Cules van den Heever, a maxillofacial prosthodontist at the University of Pretoria, for help but it was very expensive. However, with the aid of the Fuchs Foundation the money was available within two weeks.
Meyer asked Tylor what he wanted his ears to look like, he immediately replied that he wanted ears like his sister Ha-Lee’s.
A first at Groote Schuur
Gerrie Booysen, director of the Centre for Rapid Prototyping and Manufacturing at the Central University of Technology in Bloemfontein, made a cast of 18-year-old Ha-Lee’s ears, which Meyer described as “a work of art”.
Van den Heever said three titanium implants were put on both sides of Tylor’s skull three months ago.
There was enough time for the wounds to heal and the silicone ears were attached this week. He can take them off at night. Hospital costs excluded, each ear cost about R62 500.
It was the first time the procedure had been done at Groote Schuur.
Tylor said before the procedure people would stare at him everywhere he went. “It was unreal when I saw my new ears for the first time. There are no words to describe it.”
He’ll be able to wear sunglasses for the first time.