When doctors told Will and Anna Esler their newborn baby daughter Ayla was deaf, they knew they had their work cut out when it came to helping her develop the sense. Now, her family has shared footage of the emotional moment Ayla heard for the first time.
A team at Cooks Children’s Ear Nose and Throat hospital in Fort Worth, Texas, gave Ayla the gift of hearing by fitting her with a cochlear implant. The electronic device takes on the role of the inner part of the ear known as the cochlea, by helping to send sound signals to the brain. In this way, the implant is different to a hearing aid which simply makes sounds louder.
A range of patients can be fitted with cochlear implants, from those with moderate to profound hearing loss in one or both ears; and those whose condition doesn’t improve with a hearing aid. An individual must score 65 percent or less on a sound recognition test by a clinician before they can qualify for the equipment.[embedded content]
The video shows Ayla sat on her mother’s knee as the implant is turned on. As Ayla realizes she can hear, she starts to smile and tap her ear. “Yeah, you heard it!” a voice is heard saying in the background. Moved by her daughter’s reaction, Anna begins to cry.
In an interview with Cooks Children’s hospital, Anna and Will said they visited an audiologist after Ayla twice failed her newborn screening at the hospital.
Anna said: “Every child responds differently when their cochlear implants are activated, and so we didn’t know what kind of reaction she would have. And even though I knew it would work, there was still some doubt in my mind, so when I saw her responding to sound I was overwhelmed by thankfulness to God and to everyone else who has been a part of this journey.”
Will was also “excited and scared and nervous,” he said.
“I thought she would probably cry and scream when her CIs were activated—and she did do that later when it became overwhelming—but to see her hearing sound and enjoying it was just incredible.”
Her parents stressed that “being deaf isn’t bad, it’s just different,” and explained they spent much time preparing themselves for what life would be like without Ayla hearing.
“We had to let go of some things, like her knowing the sound of our voices, the sound of music, the sound of laughter,” they said in a joint statement.
“We had to prepare ourselves to see her enjoy those things in a different way, through the vibration of them, to ‘hear’ with her eyes. When we found out that cochlear implants were an option for her, sound became a reality for her again, and we are so grateful for that.”
Now, Ayla needs to catch up on a year’s worth of play and her parents must teach her how to hear and to recognize sounds have meaning.
“But she’s already responding positively—sometimes she turns to sounds [which she had never done before], she dances to music, she’s starting to calm down when we sing to her if she’s upset,” her parents said. “We really couldn’t be more thankful for the new opportunities our little girl has thanks to everyone in her life.”
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