A’Deja Rivers was diagnosed deaf in her newborn screening. She had never heard the rattle of a toy or the sound of her mother’s voice. Never, that is, until she was 15-months-old. Thanks to a cochlear implant, A’Deja was able to hear for the first time in her young life.
The Rivers family is no stranger to hearing impairment. A’Deja’s father is hearing impaired and her older sister, Ja’Lynn, is also a recipient of bilateral cochlear implants. A’Deja received treatment at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg, Florida. Shelly Ash, A’Deja’s audiologist, spoke to Parentology about this miraculous procedure.
How Does a Cochlear Implant Work?
Essentially, a cochlear implant consists of two parts: the internal implant, which is surgically implanted in the cochlea and the external sound processor that’s worn over the ear. The sound processor sends information to the internal implant using radio frequency, similar to a cell phone. That coded information is sent via electrical impulses along the cochlea, then to the auditory nerve in the brain where the listener decodes it.
Who Can Benefit From A Cochlear Implant?
Ash tells Parentology, “When a person has a hearing impairment that’s so significant a traditional hearing aid doesn’t help them hear sounds or understand someone speaking, we may consider a cochlear implant.” Implants are generally for people with severe hearing loss and are able to be utilized by young children like A’Deja, “The FDA has approved the cochlear implant for children as young as 12 months, although there are circumstances when infants even younger than 12 months are receiving these devices.”
What Is It Like To See A Child Experience Hearing For The First Time?
Watching anyone hear sound for the first time is surely a profound experience, but Ash says it’s different every time, “After nearly 30 years, I’ve learned every case is exciting. And while there are some common reactions, we never know which one we’ll get.” She explains often children are overwhelmed with emotion, which might range from laughter to tears, or even surprise, “These little ones don’t recognize what they’re hearing because they have no experience with sound.”
It’s a multi-step journey from the initial diagnosis to the implant surgery to the day the implant is activated. Ash says it never gets old, “The joy in being a part of this special day is in the anticipation, since we know providing sound to these babies is providing an opportunity to learn language through listening.” A’Deja and her family are now fully enjoying all of those opportunities thanks to her cochlear implant and the team at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital.
John’s Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, St. Petersburg, Florida
Shelly Ash, audiologist at John’s Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, St. Petersburg, Florida