Published on: 6 September 2013

Last week’s free dress day, in support of the Ear Science Institute of Australia, was organised by Year 12 student Alex Brewer. Alex, who was born with microtia and suffers from severe hearing loss in one ear, is the first person in the world under the age of 18 to take part in a new clinical trial.

Alex has grade 2 microtia, a congenital condition where the external ear is underdeveloped resulting in a unilateral conductive hearing loss. “People with this type of hearing loss have difficulty hearing conversation on their impaired side, localising sound and understanding speech when there is background noise,” he said.

Last month Alex had surgery to attach a magnet to his skull, which was inserted under the skin near his right ear. Next week, he will have a hearing aid for the first time. “The hearing aid, which works like a cochlear implant, will transmit the sound directly to my inner ear via the bones of my skull and middle ear, bypassing the external deformity,” Alex said.

Alex said after 17 years of having difficulty hearing he decided to look into his options earlier this year. He said he was excited but nervous about having the hearing aid switched on.

After making the decision to be part of the implant program, he approached his Head of House about holding a free dress day to raise awareness about hearing loss issues including an increase in noise-induced hearing loss due to noise exposure in young people.

More than $1,140 was raised for the Ear Science Institute of Australia as a result of the free dress day.