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October 30, 2003

One Year Of Hearing

From: KXAN-TV, TX - Oct 30, 2003

A medical technique is allowing a growing number of deaf Central Texans to hear again. It uses an ear mounted microphone which transmits sounds to a processor that sends it to a cochlear implant under the skin.

The sound goes to electrodes that stimulate the cochlea -- the part of the ear that allows us to hear.

Last year News 36 first introduced you to a Round Rock girl who was one of the youngest ever to receive an implant. Now, we'll show you how her first year in a hearing world went.

Two-year-old Hailey Smith has no trouble making noise, but until recently she couldn't hear any.

"Because she's profoundly deaf," Hailey's mother Heather Smith said.

Sandra Fudge says she didn't respond to any sounds at all," Region XIII Education Specialist Sandra Fudge said.

Then a cochlear implant helped change that.

"It's a $6,000 piece of equipment we don't want it to break so we protect it. This is a microphone that goes around her ear and like I said there's a magnet here on the inside of her skull and this part right here sticks right here. So until you find it, it doesn't stick but once it sticks," Heather said.

The rewards may be obvious now. About a year after the device allowed Hailey to finally hear her mom's voice and experience the sounds of her birthday, her mom says the change has been challenging.

"When she first got her implant the first four months were horrible. Absolutely horrible because she didn't understand what we were doing. Didn't make sense to her that she was in this quiet little world everything was going fine. Everything was going. Then all of a sudden you put this noise into her head," Heather said, "She was thinking, 'It's a bad thing. I'm taking it off,' and I mean she took it off 100 times a day the first four months."

"Now a year later she tells me when it falls off," Heather said.

Hailey's therapist sees and hears her thriving.

"I think she's doing great. She's very age appropriate. She uses two word utterances. She requests. She takes turns. She has a nice vocabulary. She's learning new words everyday," Fudge said.

While Hailey practices for her second hearing Halloween, her mom can't help but celebrate early.

"Just this one time of practicing knock knock and getting something and getting it just like that, it just amazing. You know she understands," Heather said.

Hailey's mother and therapist credit the cochlear implant for some of the success, but they remind everyone that it takes a lot of time and a lot of therapy to see the kind of success Hailey is enjoying.

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