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May 6, 2003

Device Breaks Child out of her Silence

From: KDKA, PA - May 6, 2003

Ten years ago, she would have spent her entire life in silence; but today a local three-year-old is listening to the sounds she might never have heard -- including her own mother's voice.

Abriana Ritenour, 3, was born with a profound hearing loss; but in April of 2001, doctors gave her a cochlear implant -- a device that has helped bring the little girl into the land of the hearing.

Cochlear implants are essentially artificial electronic versions of the organ that transforms sound vibrations into nerve impulses.

Though cochlear implants have been around for years, they hadn't been used in young children like Ritenour.

Now two years later, Connie Ritenour says her daughter is doing wonderfully in her preschool class for hearing-impaired children.
"She's incredible. She's come a long way...

"She can hear me talking. She can hear other kids talking and what's cool -- she can hear people knocking on the door, she can hear the dog barking down the road..."

-- Connie Ritenour, Mother
Getting to this success point, though, hasn't been easy.

Abriana has had to spend countless visits to the audiologist to fine-tune the electrodes in her implant. "She didn't like it and she would cry," explains Connie Ritenour, "and we'd have a hard time -- but we have to advance the level so that she could get the maximum potential out of her implant."

But, the Westmoreland County mother says it was well worth it. "She's incredible. She's come a long way."

Abriana's ability to hear also allows her to develop normal speech -- which her mother says has been especially rewarding.
"She says 'I love you' and it is just so wonderful -- so touching to me as a Mom 'cause I wouldn't have heard her say that; and for her to say that, it just touches my heart."
-- Connie Ritenour, Mother
Abriana is expected to excel in a mainstream classroom by the time she reaches kindergarten or first-grade.

While Ritenour recognizes the controversy surrounding cochlear implants in the hearing-impaired community where sign language is the primary communication, she believes she made the best decision for her child.

"She's just a normal little child," says Ritenour. "People say that she's disabled or she has a hearing problem. Not in my eyes."

To learn more about cochlear implants, click on the following links:

  • Cochlear Implants, National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders

  • Cochlear Implant Association

  • "Mind Hears: Tuning In With a Cochlear Implant," American Speech-Language-Hearing Association
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