March 2017 Children's Hospital of Michigan

Michelle and Willie Barford of Westland welcomed their first child Taylor in 2005. Taylor was a happy, healthy baby but when she was 3-years-old, they decided to have a hearing test. “Taylor was not speaking clearly. Even though her newborn hearing screening was normal and we could understand some of what she was saying, we thought she should have another hearing test,” Willie says. The results were shocking. Through auditory brainstem response testing, Taylor was diagnosed with bilateral auditory neuropathy spectrum disorder (ANSD), a rare type of sensorineural hearing loss that specifically affects how the auditory nerve transmits sound. Michelle says she was surprised by the diagnosis because Taylor would respond to what was being said. “We found out Taylor was an amazing lip reader,” Michelle says.

Once Taylor was old enough to participate in behaviour testing, she was diagnosed with severe to profound hearing loss in her left ear and moderate to severe hearing loss in her right ear. Hearing aids were recommended, and they helped according to Michelle, but Taylor was not hearing as well as she could. “Our first recommendations were to conservatively fit her with bilateral, behind the ear amplification and closely monitor her auditory, speech, and language development,” says Leslie Parent, senior paediatric audiologist at the Children’s Hospital of Michigan. “After careful monitoring and numerous assessments of speech recognition ability, we discussed the possibility of having a cochlear implant.”

Taylor benefited tremendously from her left cochlear implant and subsequently proceeded to a right cochlear implant. Michelle and Willie were thrilled to see that the implants worked wonders on Taylor. “After the implant, Taylor said, ‘I can now look at your eyes when you talk.’,” Michelle says.

Taylor, who is now 10-years-old, went from not speaking clearly and needing speech therapy to now having normal speech. She enjoys school, swimming and is an award-winning dancer. 

Taylor Barford  Taylor and Mya Barford   

Being more aware of warning signs of hearing loss, the Barfords noticed their younger daughter, Mya, may also be at risk. Hearing tests confirmed Mya also had ANSD in both ears, and Mya also benefited from cochlear implants in both ears at the age of 2. “Mya, who is 5-years-old, is also doing amazing after the cochlear implants. Her speech has now progressed to a normal level for her age,” Michelle says. The Barfords feel very fortunate and blessed that, thanks to the implant and successful treatment, their daughters have an amazing gift of hearing that many take for granted. “Both of my daughters were great lip readers, so it was not so easy to figure out what the problem might be. I would encourage all parents to see a doctor early on if there is any question about your child’s hearing and speech. It made a world of difference for Taylor and Mya,” Michelle says.