Soon after 6-month-old Brady Burley was born in Sarasota, Florida, doctors discovered the newborn suffered from a rare genetic mutation called Connexin 26 Disorder.
According to the California Ear Institute, children who are born with the disorder suffer from hearing loss but do not face the other health concerns often associated with deafness like blindness, thyroid issues or kidney problems.
Brady’s parents, Ryan and Staci, were understandably scared and worried for their youngest son’s future.
Dr. Loren Bartels, however, provided an opportunity to help little Brady hear through a cochlear implant.
The Food and Drug Administration approves the use of cochlear implants for people over 12 months old, but the National Institute on Deafness and other Communication Disorders recognizes that research shows that children who receive a cochlear implant and “intensive therapy” before they are 18 months old learn speech at a comparable rate to children who do not have hearing loss.
That’s why Dr. Bartels believes children born with hearing loss should receive cochlear implants sooner than the FDA-approved age.
“It’s important to do these children as young as possible because the data show if you do the implant any later than 6 months of age the long-term language development pays a price,” he said, according to WWSB.
Dr. Bartels was the first doctor in Florida to help a child hear with a cochlear implant and now Brady is his youngest patient.
The doctor said that Brady’s Connexin 26 Disorder makes him the perfect candidate for a cochlear implant.
“In children with the Connexin 26 genetic abnormality, there isn’t enough voltage in the inner ear to drive the hearing nerve system, but the nerves are fine,” he explained. “That means your ability to stimulate them (with a cochlear implant) is going to be very good.”
After considering the risks associated with the implant, Ryan and Staci made a bold decision for their son’s future.
“He was profoundly deaf,” Staci told WSTP. “Like there was nothing, so at that point there was no questions.”
Now that the parents were able to witness their son hear their voices for the first time, they knew that the surgery was worth the risk.
“You’re praying that it works. You’re hoping you get a reaction, so you know something’s happening. When we saw that smile, we’re like, ‘Oh! It worked! Yes! He can hear us!” Ryan recalled.
The family captured the emotional moment in a heartwarming video.
Brady still has a lot of therapy in front of him, but Dr. Bartels said by the time Brady is 3 years old no one will be able to tell that he needs a cochlear implant to hear.
Ryan and Staci now hope that Brady will become an advocate for other young children who could benefit from a cochlear implant.
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