April 2017 Fox News Health May 2017 Atlanta Journal Constitution
Randy Adams and his son, 16-month-old Max, have the same hair, the same eyes and the same hearing impairment.
When 35-year old construction worker Randy met Michelle five years ago at a restaurant, Randy was the first deaf person she had ever met, and when he tapped on his phone, “I am deaf,” Michelle initially thought he was joking. They exchanged numbers and have been inseparable ever since. At first, they communicated by writing back and forth to each other in notebooks. But over time, she learned sign language from him; he learned how to read her lips.
The son of two deaf parents, Randy had been born profoundly deaf. Randy and Michelle didn't realise their son would be born with the same genetic inner ear defect as his dad. "I was very upset at first, and I know it sounds weird because I'm fine with Randy being deaf," says Michelle Adams. "But, it just made me really sad because I thought of all the things he wouldn't experience."
When double hearing aids didn't help, Michelle began researching a cochlear implant for Max, which caught Randy off guard. "He got very upset," she remembers. "He said he likes him the way he is, he doesn't want to change him. And why don't I like him the way he is?” Michelle says it took time to agree on what to do, if anything. "It really took a lot of time," she says. "He did his research as well. And we'd talk about it all the time.” With Randy's reluctant blessing, Max underwent cochlear implant surgery in October 2016 at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta.
The change, Michelle Adams says, was striking. "Before that he'd not been responsive at all," she says. "It was just like he was bored all the time. He was a different baby when he could hear."
Randy noticed it, too. "He saw how happy Max would get," Michelle Adams says. "He literally would start laughing and giggling and just getting so excited whenever we'd put it on him and say, 'Hi Max!' And he'd just start going crazy.” The change in the now 16-month-old was so profound, that 6 months later Randy underwent the very same surgery. Nearly a month later, the couple went back to Emory University Midtown Hospital, to have Randy's cochlear implant activated.
Through a sign language interpreter, doctor of audiology Jenna Frasso, explains the process.
"I'm going to put the magnet on and it's going to test the implant." Frasso tells Randy.
She plays a series of beats, asking Randy if he can feel a vibration or sound. He nods, but says it's like "a tense feeling" on the side of his head. Sitting beside her husband, Michelle asks, “Can you hear me?” “A little bit, but you have a low voice,” Randy says through an interpreter. “So good to hear your voice,” Randy tells his wife. Michelle tears up. It's a powerful moment. Max, sleepy because his is missing his afternoon nap, is quiet. Randy will have to wait to hear his son speak.
Both father and son will continue to work with an audiologist, who will fine tune the implant. Because Max’s cochlear implant was received before 12 months of age, he should have near normal speech development. Dad Randy will likely have more difficulty with speech, since it wasn’t developed early in life. The learning curve for Randy, hearing for the first time in 35 years, may be steep. "In the beginning, it's almost like you're hearing a different language. It's a different way for the brain to hear," says Frasso. It takes at least 6 months, maybe a year, for Randy to receive the full benefit of his cochlear implant. But Michelle said there have already been big moments.
“He is constantly asking me what the sound is,” she said. “The other day when it rained, he was commenting he was hearing rain for the first time. … And with Max, he loves listening to him laugh. Before, he could see him laughing, and it was great, but now he can hear him laugh, and it’s really awesome.” Michelle and Randy plan to teach Max sign language.