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June 24, 2004

Implant could open new world

From: Colorado Springs Gazette - Colorado Springs,CO,USA - Jun 24, 2004


Justin Haddock loves riding his scooter, watching videos and petting P.J., his day-care provider's cat.

Unlike other 5-year-olds, though, Justin can't hear a car coming when he's playing outside or the dialogue on the movie "Mighty Joe Young." He can't hear P.J.'s purring.

Justin's world is silent, and not being able to hear has put him behind his peers. He uses sign language, but his signing is at the level of a 3-year-old.

His mom, Michelle Seib, thinks a cochlear implant not only could change Justin's life but would give him the choice of living in the hearing world or the deaf community.

Unlike a hearing aid, which amplifies sounds, a cochlear implant bypasses parts of the ear that aren't working and electronically sends sounds to the brain, which decodes them.

With an implant and subsequent intensive therapy, in which he would learn how to interpret the sounds, Justin could improve his understanding and develop intelligible speech.

Aside from "Mom" and "no," Justin speaks few words clearly.

Experts agree that the earlier children are identified as hearing-impaired and receive intervention, the bigger the benefits, such as increased language comprehension and speech development.

Justin wasn't tagged as hearing-impaired until he was 10 months old. Many children aren't identified until age 2 or later when their parents notice they're not chatting like other children.

With intervention at 6 months or earlier, ranging from initiating sign language to the use of hearing aids, hearing-impaired children can devel- op at the same rate as a hearing child, said Cathy Gunderson, project manager for the Early Hearing Detection and Intervention Program at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

The project, funded through a federal grant, is developing a database that tracks newborn screenings.

Justin underwent a hearing screening soon after his birth in April 1999, and he failed — twice. Seib said screeners thought it was equipment failure, not a problem with her son's hearing.

Finally, at about 11 months old, he was diagnosed with sensory neural hearing loss and got hearing aids. His hearing continually deteriorated, however, and the aids no longer are useful.

Justin, like thousands of other children across the nation, has been identified as an excellent candidate for a cochlear implant.

"What I'm doing is trying to provide him with as many options that are available for him to succeed in whatever world he wants to live in, whether it's the hearing world or the deaf community," his mother said.

The Colorado School for the Deaf and the Blind now has six students who have received the implants, according to Barbara Meese, director of student support services. That's six more than the school had a few years ago.

"We have an 8-year-old student who just received an implant and a high-schooler considering it," she said. The 8-year-old, profoundly deaf since birth, is developing listening and speech skills, she said.

There are 135 hearing-impaired or deaf students from across the state enrolled at the K-12 school.

For the past several years, Justin has received sign language instruction, speech therapy and tutoring. None of it has been covered by his mother's insurance, and the implant won't be, either.

The cost of the device and the surgery: $65,000, an amount a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says is less than one-sixth the lifetime economic costs for a person with hearing loss. The study analyzed costs associated with supportive care and services and work productivity.

A fund-raiser for Justin last weekend in Denver, put on by Seib's sister, raised about $22,000. Seib and her parents are holding garage sales Friday and Saturday in hopes of raising thousands more.

Justin's surgery is tentatively scheduled for Aug. 16, three days before he's to start kindergarten at Jefferson Elementary in Colorado Springs School District 11, where he's been attending preschool. Jefferson has a special program for the hearing-impaired and attracts students from across the region.

The implant won't get turned on for a month after the surgery. On that big day, Justin won't understand what he's hearing.

"The device itself will not be successful without intensive followup. When he gets turned on, it won't sound like anything he used to hear, to whatever degree he did hear," Seib said. "It will be like learning a new language."



Funds from two garage sales scheduled for Friday and Saturday will go toward a cochlear implant for Justin Haddock, a 5-yearold Colorado Springs boy who cannot hear. The sales will be from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. at 5260 Alteza Drive and 5457 S. Buckskin Pass Drive. Furniture will be for sale at the Buckskin Pass sale. Both homes are in the vicinity of Constitution Avenue and Powers Boulevard. Hundreds of items have been donated for the sales.

Copyright 2004, The Gazette, a division of Freedom Colorado Information. All rights reserved.