Cochlear Implants

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March 2021 williamsonherald.com

Jaime  and Lexi VernonSongs for Sound is a nonprofit with a focus on providing hearing loss awareness and access to solutions and action through consultation.  It was founded by Jaime Vernon (R) after she received confirmation that her then13-month-old daughter, Lexi, (L) was deaf. After months of being misdiagnosed, months of lost opportunities, months of not knowing what was wrong, now there were solutions. Jaime Vernon decided to use lessons learned from those experiences to help others with hearing loss through information, assessment and resources. Missed hearing loss diagnoses are the most common story, she said.  “The real kicker for me was (that) I would rock her and sing to her during her whole first year,” Jaime said. “She would squirm and never put her head on my shoulder. I would cry. We didn’t connect.”

Lexi’s diagnosis was both a relief and a heartbreak, but hope arrived when the tot was deemed a candidate for a cochlear implant.  For 19 months, Lexi lived in a silent world, struggling to communicate. Then one day, while seated in a high chair in a strange room and distracted by the bits of snack Jaime was giving her, the audiologist turned up the sound and Lexi heard something.

“Lexi, Lexi,” her father said. “Lexi, it’s mommy and daddy,” Jaime said. 

The toddler paused, sat back as if to think and then searched for the sounds. Bubbles caught her attention while mom and dad continued speaking and pounding on the tray. Lexi flashed a broad smile that lit up her parents’ hearts and the entire room.  “Time stopped for a minute,” Jaime said.

Lexi showed no fear or consternation. Instead, her face glowed with confidence, curiosity and excitement. Two months later, while Jaime again rocked and sang a lullaby to her daughter, she felt a little head lean against her shoulder. 

With a thankful heart of a servant, that night Jaime founded Songs for Sound in memory of all the lullabies Lexi missed and so “no one will go without a lullaby.”  “I felt so much guilt (before the diagnosis) and the whole time she was carrying a burden I couldn’t do anything about,” Jaime said. “Her favourite sound is music. Now she can stream music into her implant.”

Lexi’s parents used numerous resources to help their daughter make up the lost 19 months of verbal and auditory growth. She attended the Mama Lere Hearing School at Vanderbilt University, where she learned listening, speaking, singing and reading skills, and a regular preschool, where she was exposed to “real life” activities.

To provide professional and accurate services, Songs for Sounds enlists the expertise, support and aid of experts in otolaryngology and auditory programs. Hearing tests are free, as are resources to access tools for an improved quality of life. “We have a digital system that will send information to an audiologist and help people navigate with our care team,” Jaime said. “We take information, do a profile.”

A mobile outreach unit travels to cities, towns and villages all over the country to test the hearing of babies, children, teens, adults, veterans and senior citizens and a team makes regular trips to Jamaica, which has no auditory services.  The mobile unit has six stations with auditory software provide by Dr. Antonio Curci, co-founder of MelMedtronics Inc. To date, Songs for Sounds has held 850 events, provided 26,600 hearing tests and enlisted more than 650 community partners to be a part of the care team.  “The mobile experience is a glass showroom on wheels,” Jaime said. “It opens up and you walk in. What we do is out of a place of love based on what’s best for them.”

Playing off the success of the mobile unit, Songs for Sounds is dreaming big, with plans for a brick-and-mortar facility, a safe place for those live with hearing loss and need a getaway place and a support system of others with similar issues, concerns and fears.

Lexi is now a fearless, driven, disciplined, competitive 13-year-old seventh-grader at Brentwood Academy. She pitches for the Birmingham Thunderbolts and the Brentwood Academy Middle School softball teams and is a nationally ranked pitcher in the Premier Girls Fastpitch class of 2026. Lexi also plays volleyball on a travel team. She aspires to attend Ohio State University — her mother’s alma mater — Clemson, Florida or UCLA and become a neurological surgeon.

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Vision Statement: “For all young people who are deaf to reach their potential in life.”

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