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Why NIDCD Does Research: Helping People with Hearing Loss (video)

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(Will’s mother) I’m sure he thought there was no sound in the world, and when they turned on the implant and I said his name, his face-he was just overwhelmed. He was shocked and he cried a little bit and then every time they gave him a little more input he sort of looked around with a little bit of dismay but it only lasted a few hours. By the next day he was wearing the implant all the time. I found it really painful to find out he was-when I found out he was deaf because I was an English major, we’re a chatty family, we’re real literate and I was worried right away about things like "is he ever going to be able to call my name", "am I really going to know him", because so much of how we know people and our relationships in our culture are based on talking. He’s a normally developing child now who has a little more trouble with noise than some people and has sort of a different perspective from having grown up a little different from his peers, but who’s had, I think, a best-case sort of outcome.

(Will) My cochlear implant, you can actually hear and talk with the other kids but then you can take it off and sleep without-like a dog may be barking at you but you won’t wake up-or a horn or a band playing; you won’t hear it. You can just sleep and it’s kind of like, "Oh my …, this is a dream! I’m sleeping here in paradise, I don’t have any problems." It’s real cool.

(Will’s mother) The availability of the cochlear implant for Will--that we even had that choice was a result of years of research with adults and cochlear implants and the big clinical trials funded by the NIH that are done at places like Johns Hopkins. Those studies informed all the clinical practice so that the field was ready to believe that children who are profoundly deaf could take this input and really develop spoken language.

(Will) I like baseball, definitely. It’s probably my favorite sport. You get to play with your team a lot and you get to talk a lot and you just learn. I got a homerun. That’s probably the best thing that ever happened. I just ran around all the bases and then everybody starts patting your helmet and you just know you've got something good.

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(Bill) My hearing went in a matter of 48 hours. I went from a normal person who'd heard most everything to a person who heard probably 20%; within a matter of weeks had my first hearing aids. They take a little adjusting to get used to only in the fact that they're in your ear-you have a little different hearing. But without them I can’t hear enough to make it through life, so they're a real marvel for me. The technology is coming along so quickly now—some of the new stuff that they can do with them and how small they're getting and how easy they are. I can communicate with the grandchildren. When I can’t it’s probably the age more than it is the hearing.

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(Dr. James Battey) Why study molecular genetics? Why look into new candidate vaccines for otitis media? Why understand the psychophysical basis for hearing and hearing loss? The answer to this question is simple: armed with this new information we'll be able to better help roughly one out of six Americans with a communication disorder.

[Bill reading to granddaughter]

…dancing in meadows of…

(Bill) They become such a part of your everyday life. It’s why getting up in the morning I tend to put my hearing aids in before I put my glasses on.

(Will’s mother) Will told his school recently that when he grows up he’s going to be a researcher to help deaf children. He’s somebody who’s taken something that could have been really hard for him and I think he’s seeing it now as a strength, and I think it’s that spirit that helped him to be successful.

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