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 A’Deja, 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 CNN affiliate WFTS. “It just sounds to her like ‘beep, beep, beep.'”
After the implant procedure, A’Deja 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,” A’Deja’s mom Patricia told WFTS.
A’Deja’s father and older sister Ja’Lynn also have impaired hearing. Her family decided to try the cochlear implants on A’Deja 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 A’Deja 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 National Institute on Deafness and other Communication Disorders (NIDCD).
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.