Health Beat: A new way to hear for Grayson: Brain stem implant

A new way to hear for Grayson: Brain stem implant

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - Imagine being born profoundly deaf, missing the vital nerve needed for you to hear. Without it, you had no options, until now.

Born without the nerve that carries sound to the brain, 3-year-old Grayson Clamp became one of the first children in the United States to receive an auditory brain stem implant (ABI) at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

"The day that they turned it on was amazing," said Nicole Clamp, Grayson's mom.

Since then, his mom said Grayson has blossomed, going from being unable to hear, to distinguishing sounds, to even developing some speech.

"He just seems calmer. He's just more comfortable in his environment in general," she explained.

The ABI works by stimulating the brain stem directly: turning sound received by a processor into electrical impulses delivered to the brain.

"Where before he wouldn't hear a jet on the tarmac, now he can hear the softest of whispers," said Dr. Craig Buchman, director of the UNC Ear and Hearing Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Since Grayson's the first implant, it's hard to predict how his hearing will develop, but Buchman is optimistic.

"I'm hopeful. I'm super hopeful, and it seems like we are going in the right direction," he said.

Since Grayson was missing his auditory nerve, attempts at using a cochlear implant didn't work, which is why he enrolled in this trial.

His mom said he's been making such great strides that this August he'll enroll in a kindergarten readiness school for 4-year-olds so he can be around kids his age with no hearing difficulties.

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