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Brad Mehling and his wife Barb like to play a game called "What's that?"

The reason they play this game is because prior to receiving a cochlear implant, Brad couldn't hear, and he's still getting used to some of the noises that many of us hear every day without thinking about what they might mean to someone like him. 

"There were so many sounds, so I had to ask her what they were because I really didn't know," Mehling said. "The first sound I heard after they activated my implant was the clicking of the turn signal in our car. When I got home I could hear the refrigerator humming and when the furnace came on it startled me. It was an amazing moment." 

"I had never heard birds at the cabin before. Imagine hearing birds for the first time, it's heavenly." 

cochlear implants 2Barb and Brad MehlingMehling says now he can talk to friends and family with ease and him and his wife can go on long trips, all thanks to his cochlear implant. 

The pair came into Winnipeg from Steinbach to celebrate the 250th successful cochlear implant surgery at a barbecue hosted by Health Sciences Centre staff on Sunday, Sept. 9. 

Like many others in attendance, the implant has had a positive impact on the Mehling's lives. 

"It's been life changing for our whole family, we can't talk behind his back now because he hears everything," Barb said, with a laugh. "It's just been a miracle." 

A cochlear implant includes a small piece that goes inside a person's skin and an apparatus they wear on their ears similar to a hearing aid. While hearing aids make sound louder for the people who use them, the cochlear implant changes sound into electricity that the brain can understand, according to Dr. Darren Leitao, a pediatric cochlear implant surgeon. 

Dr. Leitao says after the implant is activated recipients have to go through extensive therapy to make sure it's working properly and to help deal with the new sounds they'll be hearing every day. 

Another recipient in attendance was six-year-old Mathew Speers, who was there with his family. 

He received his cochlear implant at the age of two. 

"When we found out he lost his hearing we didn't know what to do," Mathew's father Ian said. "Are we going to have to learn sign language? Is he going to have to go to special schools? Is he going to require therapy? To go from there to him hearing like any other kid. I mean, that's what he is, he's just like any other kid." 

"He can hear me from the other room, or if he's riding his bike down the street and I'm a few houses away." 

Dr. Leitao says there are hospitals across Canada that provide cochlear implants, however the HSC's Surgical Hearing Implant Program is unique in that Manitoba is one of just a few provinces that has a universal newborn screening program, meaning every child born in Manitoba is tested at birth to see whether or not they have hearing loss. 

He says that has a significant impact, because those who do have hearing loss can be treated before they are old enough to go to school. 

The 250th successful cochlear implant surgery was completed in June 2018. The HSC estimates since then, approximately 10 more surgeries have been completed.