A’Deja Rivers was born deaf. When she heard sound for the first time after receiving cochlear implants, she was understandably a bit surprised.
The doctors started with some soft noises for Rivers, who is 15 months old. But, her wide-eyed reaction made it seem like she had just heard the most beautiful symphony ever composed or a salacious piece of gossip.
“It’s so thrilling, so moving. When we first start out, we’re introducing very soft levels of electrical current,” audiologist Shelly Ash of Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital told WFTS. “It just sounds to her like ‘beep, beep, beep.'”
After the implant procedure, Rivers was able to listen to her family’s voices for the first time, including hearing her mom sweetly tell her “I love you.”
“It’s so exciting,” Rivers’ mom, Patricia, told WFTS.
Rivers’ father and older sister, Ja’Lynn, also have impaired hearing. Her family decided to try the cochlear implants on Rivers after Ja’Lynn’s proved successful.
The family always shows up to doctor’s appointments together wearing matching T-shirts, hospital spokeswoman Ashley Roberts told CNN.
Because Rivers is receiving them at such a young age, her language impairment will only be slightly delayed.
The procedure involves implanting a small electronic device into a person’s ear, bypassing damaged portions of the ear and stimulating the auditory nerve, according to the the National Institute on Deafness and other Communication Disorders.
A microphone picks up sound from the environment, and a speech processor selects sounds picked up by the mic. Then, a transmitter converts signals from the processor into electric impulses, which are sent to the auditory nerve.
The technology has advanced rapidly in recent years, now even allowing for Bluetooth connection.
People who are deaf or severely hard-of-hearing can be fitted for cochlear implants, NIDCD said. And, children can get them as young as 1 year old.