Listen to the Music: How a Cochlear Implant Restored One Girl’s Hearing
Prevention & Treatment A deaf girls’ cochlear implant restored her hearing, but that was only the beginning of the movement it launched to help others.
Music has always been a big part of Jaime Vernon’s life. She grew up in a small town in Ohio, the daughter of a single mother who loved gospel music. Today she lives in Nashville with her husband Kevin, the brother of Rascal Flatts frontman Gary Levox.
To Vernon, the thought of not being able to hear music was inconceivable. So when a hearing problem affected her family, she was devastated. In March 2009, she and Kevin got the news: “Your child is deaf.”
Understanding the diagnosis
Their child, Lexi, was 14 months old. “Until that moment,” she says, “we didn’t know why our daughter was not responding to us."
While she hadn’t had a newborn hearing screening, something wasn’t right. Vernon explains Lexi wouldn’t put her head on her shoulder and cry when her mother tried to sing her to sleep.
“My mother had died the year before,” Vernon says. “All I wanted was to connect with Lexi through music, like the way my mother and I used to connect. But, Lexi couldn’t hear me.”
The Vernons wondered how to help Lexi. Could her hearing be fixed?
"In only one year, she gained the two years of speech she had lost."
Fortunately the answer arrived, in the form of cochlear implants, a surgically implanted device that restores sound. When she was 18 months old, Lexi was implanted bilaterally with cochlear implants, a Cochlear Americas System that's bluetooth-enabled and allows Lexi to swim. Its software settings can change to match listening environments the child enters.
The results were immediate, Vernon says. On her first day with cochlear implants, Lexi heard a bird chirping. Within her first month, she had said “ma ma.” Lexi had audiology classes and worked on speaking with a speech therapy team. In only one year, she gained the two years of speech she had lost.
Dreams come true
Lexi, now age 8, has perfect speech and loves music. A second grader at Christ Presbyterian Academy in Nashville, she plays basketball and softball. According to her mom, Lexi dreams of playing basketball at Ohio State University.
“Out of our personal experience,” says Vernon, “I started Songs for Sound, a 501(c)3 charity to help some of the 360 million people worldwide suffering with hearing loss.”