Young inventiveness among CI users in Austria

Seven-year-old Chiara knows exactly how to make the lives of CI users easier. Her suggestion won her a top prize in the ideas4ears competition and gave her exciting impressions and new friends at the award ceremony in Innsbruck in June 2023.

KEL (Kinder/Eltern/Lehrer (in English: children/parents/teachers) discussion shortly before the end of school: Chiara and her parents are invited to talk to the class teacher. Mom has come home early from the office. Dad has also taken the day off. Grandma has made extra schnitzel for Chiara beforehand. "Hullabaloo all over the house," laughs her father looking back. The conversation with the teacher began at 3 pm. A few minutes later, the seven-year-old patted her dad on the arm: "My battery is out!" The full battery was far away, at home in the charger. For Chiara, the conversation was effectively over.

Chiara has been hearing with a cochlear implant for over six years. "We now completely forget about the hearing system in everyday life," explains Chiara's mother. Except for changing the battery. "When it's empty, it beeps a bit," sighs the girl with the dark blonde, shoulder-length round haircut. "And then it's immediately off." If the primary school pupil is out and about and doesn't have a spare battery with her, she can no longer hear properly.

ideas4ears winner Chiara with her dad at the AUDIOVERSUM in Innsbruck ©ideas4ears

That's why changing the battery on time is part of the daily routine in Chiara's family, even if there is still some charge left in the battery. But when this daily routine is disrupted by something, the routine sometimes falls into oblivion. Just like before the KEL talk; or when Chiara was at the circus workshop Manege frei! and suddenly couldn't hear how she could best perform the tricks.

"The science of tomorrow is based on the ideas of today!"

So when Chiara heard about the MED-EL children's inventor competition ideas4ears, she immediately knew what she would invent: a battery warning "that beeps beforehand, at the usual time!" In Chiara's case, that would be right after lunch. Chiara's father, a trained technician, supports her: "Maybe with artificial intelligence? It can then also take into account how long the battery will last." A great idea, according to the jury of the inventor competition.

"We launched our annual ideas4ears competition to inspire young people around the world and introduce them to science, technology and medicine in an entertaining and creative way," says Geoffrey Ball, introducing the competition.

The inventor of the VIBRANT SOUNDBRIDGE middle ear implant heads the ideas4ears jury: "Every year, our jury is overwhelmed by the ideas we receive from children aged six and over. They could one day really benefit millions of people around the world living with hearing loss. Tomorrow's science is based on today's ideas and insights. When our future is in the hands of our ideas4ears winning children, there's no need to worry!"

The ideas4ears award ceremony 2023 with international winners. ©ideas4ears

This year, more than 200 children aged six to twelve submitted their inventions; children from a total of 21 countries and four continents. There they presented their inventions as well as their talents: For example, nine-year-old Danile from Spain played the violin, nine-year-old Ridaan from India showed off some of his drawings and Chiara performed a magic trick.

In addition to the other winning children, Chiara also met Martin in Innsbruck. He is the MED-EL CI production employee who built Chiara's implant.

Collecting memories and growing friendships

The young inventors and their families spent a whole weekend together. "It was great," Chiara sums up somewhat shyly. What she found particularly exciting was "when we were in the company and saw the different rooms." In the last room, the surgical training lab, she was even allowed to operate. "There was a skeleton. You had to drill into it and insert the CI."

Back home, Chiara proudly shows off her three "Höribald" plush figures on the couch. Memories from various cochlear implant-related events. Chiara also brought back something from the meeting of ideas4ears winners in Innsbruck: a transparent cube with an engraved cochlea. It was given to her by Martin, who built Chiara's implant. The cube was Martin's first present at MED-EL many years ago.

"I would like to have a beep in my CI ear when we still have enough time to change the battery. A kind of alarm clock inside me, where I can set the time myself." ©ideas4ears

Chiara will remember the award ceremony in Innsbruck for a long time to come: Although the young schoolgirl still speaks little English, most of the other young winners speak no German. But thanks to the translation app on the respective mothers' smartphones, Chiara was able to have a wonderful chat with the sisters of the Spanish winner Danile. Chiara now wants to keep in touch with the two girls she has made friends with!