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July 3, 2003

19-year-old hears after surgery

From:, MI - Jul 3, 2003

The Associated Press

ST. CHARLES, Mich. (AP) -- Ryan Pumford had waited so long. Still, it surprised the 19-year-old when the sounds he heard were too loud.

"There were a lot of tears, tears of joy," his mother, Sharon Pumford said of those first sounds in March after her son had successful cochlear implant surgery.

"It was a three-hour process when they slowly turned it on with beeps and sounds. And when they had him speak, he just about fell over," she told The Saginaw News for a Thursday story.

Born "profoundly deaf," Pumford wore hearing aids in both ears as a toddler before losing all of his hearing in his left ear in kindergarten. His right ear receives about 20 percent to 30 percent hearing, enough to combine with lip-reading and sign language to communicate.

Three months after his operation, the sounds are beginning to take shape and Ryan Pumford is quickly improving his spoken language.

"He has to learn to trust his hearing, to listen," Sharon Pumford said. "I often say it's a guy thing because guys don't listen anyway."

The change is the first of several for Pumford who goes off to Rochester (N.Y.) Institute of Technology in the fall, leaving behind a town he credits with helping him get "to where I am today."

Sandra Casey, Pumford's teacher-consultant for the hearing impaired in the Saginaw School District, helped counsel and tutor Pumford.

"He had a very supportive family; they pushed him all the way," Casey said.

Pumford's implants came after he had already navigated mainstream schooling in St. Charles, where he graduated with honors and a stack of varsity letters from golf, football, basketball and baseball. His mother says athletics was a perfect vehicle for him.

"Sports got him past a lot of stuff," Sharon Pumford said. "Sometimes kids don't know or don't understand, but they understand someone who can hit a home run or make a basket. That was his door into a lot of things."

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