April 2019 WHEC 10News
When you first meet Bobby Rule, he acts like a typical 10-and-a-half-year-old boy: playing video games, chatting with friends, playing with his dog. What you don’t see, is the nearly decade-long journey the family went through to get him where he is today. “When I was three years old, they found out I was deaf,” explained Bobby. His mom, Krissy Rule, knew long before then that something was wrong. “[Doctors] said he was fine, that he could hear. We went back multiple times and they kept saying no, he’s fine. They played it off, saying ‘it’s just fluid, don’t worry,’ and 'you don’t want to worry',” recalled Krissy.
But she did worry, and she followed her mother’s intuition to get her son more help. At one point, the family commuted to Buffalo every day to drop Bobby off at a specialised pre-school so he could get the resources he needed. “We started early intervention, speech therapy multiple times a week,” Krissy explained. While Bobby couldn’t hear, he was incredibly smart; essentially tricking audiologists during his hearing exams by reading lips and body language to guess the answers. Finally, Bobby went through a sedated test and the family got their answer: he had severe hearing loss and it was getting worse. “I knew something wasn’t right, but everyone was saying it was fine. So, when we got that news at three years old, it was almost a relief because we could help him at that point,” explained Krissy. He got hearing aids, but they only made things louder, not clearer. “We read book upon book and to think for three years…he didn’t hear those,” said Krissy.
At seven, he got a cochlear implant on his right ear so he could see how he would adapt to using one. A while later, he had a second one on his left ear. “He went from 40-45 percent hearing in the sound booth to a few months after activation to 85-90,” said Krissy. Bobby said at first it sounded weird, almost high pitched. Or, as Bobby put it, "everyone sounded like A-Rod’s wife," referring to the former Yankees player’s fiancee, Jennifer Lopez. Now, the voices sound more normal, and Bobby is able to play the trumpet, play video games with his friends, and play sports at school. That includes baseball, with helmets that now fit over his cochlear implants.
“I realised I was saying some wrong words, I’m still practicing now,” said Bobby, explaining he continues to work on pronunciation and learning words. He no longer has to commute to school, now attending Chestnut Ridge Elementary where his teacher wears a device around her neck that sends a signal directly to his implants. “We don’t see him any different, we don’t treat him any different. He works hard each day,” said Krissy. He’s able to participate in typical 10-year-old kid activities, including sleepovers with friends. “Everyone has something different, or something they struggle with. This is his, he takes it and runs with it. Nothing fazes him,” Krissy said.