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Friday, 8 February, 2002, 18:35 GMT
Woman with no ears hears
Janet Craven, right, and niece Andrea Dalton
Janet Craven, right, celebrates with niece Andrea Dalton
A woman born with no ears has been able to hear for the first time, and has had artificial ears created.

Janet Craven , 47, who suffers from the rare genetic disorder Treacher Collins syndrome, said her new silicone ears made her feel "more lady-like" and less self-conscious about her appearance.

Mrs Craven, who is divorced and lives in Lupset, Wakefield, West Yorkshire, had the ears attached to her head last Friday.

Mrs Craven said: "I was very choked up and full of tears - it was very emotional and overwhelming."

Janet Craven
Janet Craven was given silicone ears

Her sister, Carol Dalton, 56, said: "It has changed her life.

"She felt like a total prisoner before - it was a secret she had to keep covered up.

"She feels she's got nothing missing now.

"She can wear her hair up in a ponytail and she's already got her ears pierced."

After two operations, using the latest technology developed in Sweden, Mrs Craven first heard the sound of her own voice last October when a state-of-the-art hearing aid was attached to the bone in the side of her head.

"When she spoke to me she said her voice was very loud and she just wondered what it was," said Mrs Dalton.

This has revolutionised Janet's life and she is no longer in a silent world

Dr Sue Clarke

"When we walked out of the hospital she asked me 'what's that noise?', and she had to describe it to me.

"I told her it was the wind - she had never heard the wind before and she says it still keeps her awake at night"

Surgeon Richard Loukota, who performed part of the operation at Pinderfields Hospital, Wakefield, said he had not heard of anyone else in the country who had undergone the surgery on both ears.

The operations involved drilling three metal pins into each side of Mrs Craven's head before the silicone ears could be attached with magnetic implants.

Ear consultant Dr Sue Clarke said: "I am happy to say that this has revolutionised Janet's life and she is no longer in a silent world."

Surgeon murdered

Treacher Collins syndrome is a hereditary condition that affects one in 50,000 babies born in Britain.

The condition primarily affects the structures of the head and face, with characteristic features including down-slanting eyes, underdeveloped cheekbones and a grossly receding chin.

The external ears may be entirely absent, squashed or very small and the middle ear may also be missing, leading to a conductive deafness.

Mrs Craven said she underwent 12 operations between the ages of 12 and 16 to reconstruct the bone structure of her face.

The surgical procedures used were the brainchild of leading plastic surgeon Dr Kenneth Paton who was murdered by a paranoid schizophrenic in 1990.

He had to remove three of Mrs Craven's ribs to re-build her cheekbones and chin.

Dr Paton was stabbed to death along with fellow surgeon Michael Masser at Pinderfields Hospital by Iraqi student Laith Alani 12 years ago.

Alani, who was 24 at the time, was sentenced to an indefinite term of imprisonment in a maximum-security unit at Rampton Hospital in 1991.

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See also:

29 Dec 01 | England
'Deaf' toddler recovers hearing
18 Oct 01 | Health
Breakthrough for deaf children
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