A 3-year-old boy who suffers from total deafness became an internet sensation this week after a video of him hearing his father’s voice for the first time went viral. The boy, who had been deaf since birth, appears stunned when he hears his father say, “Daddy loves you.”
The boy’s parents had enrolled him in a clinical trial that involved surgically implanting a device into the base of the boy’s brainstem that now allows him to hear. The boy is one of the first children in the United States to receive an auditory brainstem implant after being born without cochlear nerves, which carry auditory information from the ears to the brain.
Until now, the device has been primarily tested on adults, but the FDA recently approved a clinical trial involving children. The surgery is significant as it requires placing electrodes on the brain itself. Typical cochlear implants are used to send electrical stimulation to the cochlea, but this surgery takes the science one step further.
The boy’s parents were told that he was a great candidate for the trial because he is in great health otherwise, and his young brain will be able to adapt quickly to the changes. They said their son was never scared of the new hearing sensation and has since discovered a love for music.
Children who suffer from total deafness are often able to qualify for Supplemental Security Income, which is a government assistance program available to children with certain disabilities. Many families depend on government benefits because of the numerous extra costs associated with raising a child with a disability.
Source: NBC News, “Deaf boy, 3, hears father’s voice for the first time,” Melissa Dahl, June 21, 2013