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HEALTH Alert: Cochlear implant for infants

From: WIS - Columbia,SC,USA - Apr 2, 2004

(New York) April 2, 2004 - Baby Amanda has lived in a completely silent world all her own all of her nine-and-a-half months. Although it hasn't affected her sunny disposition one bit, Amanda's mother Kerry says her daughter was born virtually deaf, "If a plane were to take off in front of her, everything lower than that, she can't hear. She can't hear a conversation. She can't hear sirens when we're walking in the street. It's scary."

But, a whole new world opened up for Amanda, and she was able to hear for the first time in her life. Amanda had a cochlear implant, a highly sophisticated electronic device combining a microphone, computerized signal processing and 22 electrodes that directly stimulate the nerves of hearing.

Doctors have recently been implanting babies like Amanda because of what happens to kids who can't hear during their first three years of life. Dr. Susan Waltzman of NYU Medical Center says, "They will be delayed in terms of language, and it's very difficult to catch up. If you do children who are very young, you are giving them the opportunity to perhaps be on a trajectory with their normal hearing peers."

Turn on the implant on for the first time was just the beginning of a life-long process of programming, tuning and adjusting the implant to give Amanda her best possible hearing.

Ron, Amanda's father, says, "It's amazing. It's amazing. It's a feeling that you really can't describe, because you hope again now she can go mainstream. She can be like everyone else."

Kerry says, "It's nothing short of a miracle. This is amazing. A couple of days ago our child was still deaf, and today she's in the hearing world. We have no doubt that she is going to learn how to speak, that she's going to go to a mainstream school, and she's going to fulfill every potential that she has."

As she grows and develops, doctors will need to adjust and reprogram Amanda's implant. While the implant should give Amanda good enough hearing to develop normal speech and language, she is still deaf. When she takes the external part of the device off, she still won't be able to hear.

For more information visit the NYU Cochlear Implant Center's web site.(http://www.med.nyu.edu/cochlear)

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Help Kids Hear is a site dedicated to helping parents of deaf and hard of hearing (DHH) children. We are parents of hard of hearing kids and simply want to "give back" to the community. We welcome your comments, questions & suggestions. Please drop us a note at info@helpkidshear.org.