Today, children who were born deaf, are now hearing adults thanks to a little device called the cochlear implant.
Surgically implanted into the ears, cochlear implants take sound waves and transform them into electrical codes the brain can read. That code is sent along a series of contacts placed next to the hearing nerve, that hearing nerve is activated and thus simulates the act of hearing.
This action is different than a standard hearing aid in that it does not amplify sound, it welcomes more sound in.
The causes of deafness are varied and multiple. For example, diseases like rubella, scarlet fever and measles that caused hearing loss in the past, are now but extinct thanks to vaccinations. Today’s generation of children living with autism are seeing more hearing issues.
What is known for certain however, is that half of the children who were born deaf – for whatever reason – can now hear.
One such child who was born deaf is Shezaad Zaman. This 31-year-old Sacramento based physician can now hear.
Zaman told National Public Radio that his parents wanted him to learn how to speak and listen, despite not being able to hear.
He went to a special school at first, but in the third grade he went to therapy to learn how to read lips instead and moved into his neighborhood school in Long, Island, N.Y. He learned to do many normal childhood activities like play sports and socialize with friends, but it was never easy.
“All my peers were able to use the telephone and have conversations in noise restaurants, and it was getting harder and harder for me to have a conversation outside of one-on-one or one-on-two,” he told NPR.
After the surgery, Zaman remembers waking up to a different world.
“It didn’t sound natural to me. I was hearing the air conditioner, or running water or a bird chirping and I didn’t know what it was, so it really took some time for my brain to process,” he told NPR.
More than half of all deaf children are being outfitted with the implants today. One in every four adults also have, even though it takes longer for adult brains to adapt to hearing sound.
“We live in a hearing world,” Zaman told NPR. “I was just happy because I could have much more ease in terms of communicating with people.”