'Tears of joy': Baby hears parents for first time after cochlear implants
Jackie Dunham, CTVNews.ca
Published Wednesday, February 28, 2018 8:34AM EST
When little Ireland heard the sound of her parents’ voices for the first time, she did what most babies do. She cried.
And so did everyone else.
That’s because the 11-month-old girl became the youngest patient in Manitoba to receive cochlear implants, allowing her to hear for the first time in her life.
“It was tears of joy,” Courtney Duke, Ireland’s mother, gushed. “It wasn’t hurting her and it was a new experience for her.”
“This is huge. From day one, this is what we wanted for her so today it’s become possible,” Will Gault, the girl’s father, added.
As the rest of the family watched, Ireland’s parents tried to comfort their daughter adjust to hearing sound for the first time.
“Hi Ireland! It’s mommy and daddy,” Gault said.
“It’s going to be okay,” Duke cooed.
Ireland was born with profound deafness, which means she’s unable to hear sound. Her hearing loss was identified through Manitoba’s Universal Newborn Hearing Screening program.
“Thank God it was because we’re not sure where we would have been because Ireland, she does everything normal like an 11-month-old would do,” Gault told CTV Winnipeg on Tuesday.
Although Duke said she was devastated when she learned of her daughter’s condition, the family had a glimmer of hope thanks to technology.
Ireland received two cochlear implants, one for each ear, at the beginning of February.
The cochlear implant is an electronic device that is surgically implanted into the skull and inner ear with an accompanying external piece worn behind the ear. It’s designed to provide hearing to those with severe to profound hearing loss, according to the Canadian Academy of Audiology.
After a few weeks of recovery, Ireland’s implants were turned on for the first time as her family and audiologist watched.
“We’ve always talked to her like she could hear but to think that today she’s actually hearing it was beyond exciting,” Kathy Duke, Ireland’s grandma, said.
Kristy Mackie, Ireland’s audiologist, said the little girl is lucky because children were usually two years old before they were identified as candidates for cochlear implants in the past.
“It’s such a great feeling that she’s getting that sound earlier. She has that chance to catch up and she’ll be able to participate in every day normal activities,” Mackie said.
Now that the cochlear implants are activated, Ireland will have to wear the external part of the device as much as possible. A listening and spoken language specialist will also help Ireland learn to differentiate sounds and say her first words eventually.
“We’re just super excited,” Gault said. “She’s the sparkle in our eye every day. She gives us strength and hope and we want to give her the best chance we can.”
With a report from CTV Winnipeg’s Michelle Gerwing