IM this article to a friend!

May 24, 2007

Sound Success

From: Central Kentucky News Journal - Campbellsville,KY,USA - May 24, 2007

By James Roberts, Staff Writer

Victoria Boone is like most other 12-year-old girls. She's a member of her school dance team. She's played community soccer for the last three years. She likes listening to music, hanging out with her friends, swimming and riding four-wheelers.

But there's something about Victoria that, to some, may seem a little different. Something that, two years ago, had a couple of classmates convinced she was some sort of spy.

Victoria has a cochlear implant in her right ear. In addition to the implant, the device is coupled with an external piece. It was the external device, which looks similar to a listening device, which raised the suspicion of two boys in Victoria's class a few years ago.

"They asked me if I was a spy," Victoria said, a smile stretched across her face. She assured them that she wasn't.

She was born profoundly deaf, but the condition wasn't discovered until she was 11 months old.

"We thought she needed tubes," said Sandi Boone, Victoria's mother. "She went through a couple sets of tubes. We think she was born that way. She never responded to simple sounds."

The most telling moment came at a Fourth of July parade in downtown Campbellsville. Victoria, who was just a few months old at the time, was fast asleep in her stroller by the time the parade started. As a convoy of fire trucks passed by with sirens blaring, Boone looked at her daughter to see if the noise had startled her. Victoria was still asleep.

Victoria was born a healthy baby, Boone said. At the time, the round of health screenings newborn children are subjected to were not mandatory as they are now. By the time Victoria's sister, Callie, was born four years later, the screenings were mandatory.

When Victoria was around 1 year old, doctors performed an auditory brainstem response test, which examines hearing by recording electrical activity from the auditory nerve.

The test results showed that Victoria could not hear at all.

It was then that John and Sandi Boone, who are now divorced, moved to Louisville so that Victoria could attend the Louisville Deaf Oral School. The school provides early childhood education programs for deaf and hard of hearing children up to age 7.

There, Victoria learned to speak and read lips, among other things.

Victoria was 2 years old when she received the cochlear implant in 1997, making her the youngest person in the state to undergo the procedure at the time. In 2000, the procedure was approved for children as young as 12 months.

Though cochlear implants for children may be more common today, it wasn't quite as common 10 years ago.

Clinical trials were first performed for an early version of the device in 1961, but the Food and Drug Administration didn't begin regulating them until 1980. In 1984, the device was approved for adults. A child did not receive an implant until 1989 as a clinical trial. The FDA approved the implants for children the following year.

According to the FDA, as of 2005, 22,000 adults and 15,000 children have received the implant in the U.S.

"The surgery was optional, but we felt we didn't really have a choice," Boone said. "We knew it would either improve her hearing or not."

According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, a cochlear implant does not amplify sounds as a hearing aid does.

Instead, the implant converts sounds and speech into electric impulses and sends them to various regions of the auditory nerve, which recognizes the impulses as sound. This process gives a deaf person a representation of sounds and speech.

The device was implanted in Victoria's right ear only. Victoria cannot hear with her left ear at all. When she turns the device on her right ear off, she cannot hear at all.

The Boones had the option of having the devices implanted in both ears, but opted not to.

"I felt like she needed to be 18 and able to make that decision for herself," Boone said. "I think it should be her choice."

Victoria said she's happy with the single implant.

By the time she was ready for first grade, the Boones enrolled her in Chance School, a private school in Louisville. The switch was a big transition.

"It was a lot harder than I thought it would be," Victoria said. "I still felt comfortable, though."

Unlike at the Deaf Oral School, Victoria was the only one with hearing problems at Chance. However, she said, she had no trouble keeping up.

Today, it's even easier for Victoria.

At Taylor County Middle School, teachers are equipped with microphones that transmit directly to hearing devices for students who have hearing impairments. Victoria has used this system since third grade, which was when the Boones moved back to Taylor County. She is now in the sixth grade.

TCMS teacher Shea White said Victoria's hearing loss has no affect on her school work.

"She's a very hard worker, very dedicated," she said. "She's an overachiever. She always goes above and beyond."

The external portion of Victoria's hearing device has changed three times since she received the implant 10 years ago. The external portion of the first device involved a cord running from her ear to a box the size of a pager. By the time she was in first grade, the external device became smaller and was moved to just behind her ear. Today, the external device is even smaller.

While those who have had the device implanted later in life may find it a major adjustment, Victoria has had the implant so long that it's natural for her.

"We caught it early enough that it never prevented her from doing anything," Boone said. "[Hearing loss] never held her back."

May is Better Hearing Month. The following quiz can help determine if you need to have your hearing tested.

- Do you have a problem hearing over the telephone?

- Do you have trouble following conversations when two or more people are talking?

- Do people complain that you turn the TV volume up too high?

- Do you have to strain to understand conversations?

- Do you have trouble hearing in a noisy background?

- Do you find yourself asking people to repeat themselves?

- Do many people you talk to seem to mumble or not speak clearly?

- Do you misunderstand what others are saying and respond inappropriately?

- Do you have trouble understanding the speech of women and children?

- Do people get annoyed because you misunderstand what they say?

If you answered yes to three or more of these questions, you should see an otolaryngologist (an ear, nose and throat specialist) or an audiologist for a hearing evaluation.

- Staff Writer James Roberts can be reached at 465-8111 Ext. 226 or by e-mail at Comment on this story at

© 2007 Central Kentucky News Journal