Thursday, May 27, 2010

Student with Cochlear Implant Overcomes Challenges

Student with Cochlear Implant Overcomes Challenges

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DALLAS - Chirping birds is a sound that Michael Noble doesn't take for granted. Michael was born deaf and at the age of two became the first child in north Texas to have cochlear implant surgery at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.

"Well I think it's really a true blessing to be one of the first people and really thankful that my parents took that risk," Michael said.

Risky because the procedure had been approved by the Food and Drug Administration only two weeks before. Michael went through years of intense speech therapy and decided in the 7th grade he wanted to go Southern Methodist University where he breezed through in just three years and graduated last weekend.

Michael credits his family, doctors, therapists and the cochlear implant for his success.

"I know that if I didn't have the implant I wouldn't be where I am today and I'm really glad that I have it because I really enjoy listening to music and talking on the phone and just being in the mainstream," Michael said.

Recent studies show that kids who have implants before they're two learn faster and better.

UT Southwestern assistant professor Dr. Walter Kutz implants about four kids a month. He said the plasticity of a childs brain is key.

"The earlier a child can get an implant the better they are going to do," Dr. Kutz said.

And Michael is living proof. His success is more than his parents could have imagined.

"To us, even if he was able to just hear environmental sounds was the best that was going to happen with the implant, we thought well--that's got to make his life safer and better," Kerry said.

Cochlear implant critics say children born with hearing loss should embrace their lifestyle and learn sign language. Michael is hearing none of that.

"I really don't understand why there is so much controversy," Michael said. "The way I see it -- if you're born with ears, you were meant to hear."