April 2017 KSHB Kansas City

Layla Walker's piano playing is music to her family's ears, but not to hers. "Today I am going to get my cochlear implant turned on," she said. "It's going to be super cool. And guess what - I'll be able to hear everything, even birds singing. I've never heard birds singing before.” Layla is blind and mostly deaf. The 16-year-old has lived the majority of her young life in total darkness and silence.

"When I think of certain colours, I think of the thing it relates to," Layla explained. "Like blue, I think of ocean and red, I think of a heart. Not being able to hear, it's most difficult for me because I can't hear where in the world noises are coming from.” But that changed when her audiologist activated her cochlear implant. 

"There is a really big advantage that comes with connecting with your world via sound," explained Jamie Governal with St. Luke's Hospital's Midwest Ear Institute. "For Layla, it's even more important because of her vision loss. It's really awesome for kids to be able to hear their parents voices, hear birds chirping, all those things we take advantage of day-to-day.” But as cool as it is, the cochlear implant goes beyond helping Layla hear a bird's song; it is a stepping stone to her independence. "When she can cross a certain level of independence, she can have a guide dog, so that way she can have the ability to have even more independence," explained Layla's dad Jason.  And while she has big dreams, for today, Layla wants to enjoy the simple things.

"I am going to try to talk to my parents and my siblings and maybe try to play the piano, and see what that sounds like," said Layla.