Children’s physical disabilities are all too often a reason for parents to decide to have an abortion, but sometimes parents choose life and then the miracle of modern technology takes over.
That is the case for a three-year-old boy who is now hearing the world — and his father — for the first time thanks to an auditory brain stem implant.
Little Grayson Clamp was born without his cochlear nerves — the nerves necessary to transmit sound form the inner ear to the brain. A cochlear implant did not work so his parents went to the next option.
“They then enrolled Grayson in a research trial at University of North Carolina Hospitals in Chapel Hill, N.C,” a report says. “Three weeks ago, he became the first child in the U.S. to receive an auditory brain stem implant.”
Now, he is hearing.
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“He likes sound,” young Grayson’s mom Nicole Clamp, said to CBS affiliate WBTV in Charlotte, N.C. “He enjoys the stimulus, the input. He’s curious, and he definitely enjoys it.”
The procedure involves placing a microchip on the brain stem to bypass the cochlear nerves altogether. The person perceives and processes sound, which travel through tubes in his ear.
Dr. Craig Buchman, Grayson’s head and neck surgeon at UNC, explained to CBSNews.com that the devices were made several years ago for adults who have tumors in their cochlear nerves, but it has never been approved for use in children in the United States.. While the implants were able to give back some hearing to the adults that received them, they were not as effective as cochlear implants.
However, Buchman’s team’s theory was that if the auditory brain stem implant was put in a young child, they may be better at processing the sounds.
“One of the reasons we really were interested in this study, children have enormous potential because of their brain plasticity,” he said. “They have enormous potential to interpret sounds…. I don’t know what he hears and how he’s going to use it, but only time will tell.”
Grayson was the first chosen because he had high cognitive abilities and used cued speech, a form of sign language used to communicate. That way, doctors could see if he was hearing anything and responding to sound stimuli.
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