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June 10, 2004

Waiting to hear

From: Newton Kansan - Newton,KS,USA - Jun 10, 2004

Deaf basketball player acquires cochlear implant

By Marathana Furches
Newton Kansan

Chelsea Jackson's made plenty of nothing-but-net shots, but she's never heard the swish.

Now, that first swish could be less than a week away.

Jackson has been deaf most of her life, and until a few years ago, she thought she'd never have the chance to call her friends on the phone. However, the Hesston College point guard recently got a cochlear implant and is only days from hearing for the first time.

Cochlear implants are usually implanted in one ear and use electrodes to transmit sounds to the auditory nerve in the brain, which allows sound to pass over the nonfunctioning part of the ear and go directly to the brain where it is registered.

Jackson's implant, which doctors put in last month, originally was scheduled to be activated Monday, but the wrong pieces were ordered, and she's counting the days until they turn it on.

"I've waited a month so far, so another week isn't going to kill me," she said.

Jackson and her doctors still are unsure of how effective the implant will be. In the best case scenario, Jackson will have 80 percent of her hearing, which means she'll be able to do some of the things she's always wanted to, things like talking on the phone and listening to music.

There was a 50-50 chance Jackson's hearing aid wouldn't work after the implant, but she and her family decided that was a risk worth taking.

"I wore a hearing aid and when I went back for a check-up a week after the surgery. The doctor told me I could try my hearing aid to see if it worked. But he warned me that it was a 50-50 chance that it might work," Jackson said. "I got home and tried it and it didn't work. But that's OK because it makes the day I get to hear more exciting."

Her biggest concern going into the surgery -- her blonde hair.

"I was afraid they'd have to cut off so, so, so much," Jackson said. "After the surgery, they really didn't cut off much hair so I was so relieved."

Jackson's surgery lasted four hours, and she only felt pain for the two days following the procedure. She said her doctors told her she has a good chance of having 80 percent hearing because of her intelligence, positive attitude and motivation.

The decision to get the implant was a difficult one for Jackson and her family. They began discussing the possibility last December and made a visit to doctors at the University of Oklahoma Medical Center over Spring Break, which is when Jackson made her decision.

"We prayed about it every chance we got, and just talked about it ... then decided it was time to get it done. I think the main reason why we all decided was because of the possibility that I might be able to chat on the phone," Jackson said.

Though she's excited about the prospects of talking to her friends and family on the phone, Jackson is even more enthused about the idea of getting to hear the blessing at family dinners.

"I cannot wait to just close my eyes and listen to whoever is praying, because throughout all these years, I've just shut one eye and peeked and looked at the lips of whoever is praying," Jackson said. "But hopefully, I'll get to just close my eyes."

She also is looking forward to hearing music and said her friends are trying to figure out a good concert to take her to.

"I really want to go to a concert like Sheryl Crow or Alicia Keys because people tell me their music is smooth rather than rough," Jackson said.

Though her cochlear implant will help her hear when she's not on the court, Jackson will have to remove the outer device while playing in order to keep it from getting damaged.

"Whenever I play ball, I will have to take the device off because I could ruin it easily," Jackson said. "But that is fine because I've been playing all my career with no sounds, so I don't think it would be an easy adjustment to have to play with noise."

She still doesn't know when the implant will be turned on, but Jackson said her doctors said it should be next week.

"I'm sure I will love everything I hear," Jackson said.

-- The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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