Five-year-old Marianne Franco failed every hearing test since she was born, causing her to move through life lip reading and hearing what she could with a hearing aid. All of that recently changed when doctors at Texas Children’s Hospital The Woodlands turned on the cochlear implant Marianne received weeks before.
As an audiologist rang a bell, the girl gave a grin. When they continued to ask her questions, trying to gauge how much she could hear, Marianne’s mom, Lizette, whispered behind her daughter’s head.
“I hear that,” Marianne said.
“What did you hear?” her mom asked.
Marianne is not sure yet how to discern exactly what she’s hearing. She’s grown up lip reading and has been able to pick up amplified sounds through a hearing aid. However, the sounds have never been crisp or at a safe volume. That’s why her family opted for Texas Children’s physicians in The Woodlands to surgically place a cochlear implant inside her head and give her the chance to hear.
“I think she’s going to do fantastic with the implant,” said Pediatric Otolaryngologist Dr. Jill Beck, explaining that the implant in Marianne’s head is sending a wireless signal to the outside processor. The nerve that’s being exercised for the first time is so fragile they have to send very soft sounds that will gradually build with time.
Meanwhile, she has to learn what sounds to associate with words in both English and Spanish. It will be exhausting, but Marianne is willing to work hard. To understand her motivation, you have to think like a child. Minutes after her implant was on, she asked to go underwater. She’s never heard the sound of water.
“You’ve been dreaming about this right?” Lizette asked.
Beck said Marianne is one of four children at Texas Children’s Hospital The Woodlands to get this kind of implant. As technology gets better, she said, there’s a lot of promise that this will become a more routine procedure.
For more information about Texas Children’s cochlear implant team and the Eat & Hearing Center at Texas Children’s click here.
To watch KPRC Channel 2’s story about Marianne’s cochlear implant and reaction to hearing the world like she never has before, click here. To read a story in the Houston Chronicle about her implant, click here.