E’Marie’s Cochlear implant Story

May 28, 2019

Cochlear implants give toddler the social ability her parents always knew she had  

E'MarieIn June, 2014, Qunnetta Cummings welcomed her fourth and youngest child E’Marie to her family.  The delivery was routine without complications but E’Marie did not pass the initial newborn hearing screening at the hospital.  Additional hearing tests over the course of her hospital stay had the same results. Qunnetta and E’Marie’s father Erick Ross were referred to a local ear, nose and throat physician for follow up testing.

“I may have been in denial in the first 6-7 months, but did not think E’Marie was deaf. Even though she seemed to not hear certain things she did seem to react to movements,” says Qunnetta. 

She took the advice of her primary care physician who suggested E’Marie be evaluated at the Children’s Hospital of Michigan, part of the Detroit Medical Center. Audiology tests confirmed that E’Marie has a bilateral profound sensorineural hearing loss. E’Marie received speech therapy and began treatment with hearing aids but the hearing aids did not help as much as they hoped.

“We did not see notable progress in her hearing and E’Marie did not seem to like wearing them. I noticed one day she was digging in her toys and found her hearing aids hidden at the bottom of the basket,” says her grandmother Vicky Walch.

Not satisfied with the hearing aids, the family searched for other answers and consulted with the the Audiology department and Bianca Siegel, M.D, pediatric ear, nose and throat specialist at the Children’s Hospital of Michigan.

Dr. Siegel and audiologists recommended that cochlear implants might be an option for E’Marie. A cochlear implant, which resembles a behind-the-ear hearing device, is an electronic medical device that replaces the function of the damaged inner ear. Unlike hearing aids, which make sounds louder, cochlear implants do the work of damaged parts of the inner ear (cochlea) to provide sound signals to the brain.

“When hearing aids fail to provide adequate access to sound, children with severe to profound sensorineural hearing loss can benefit from cochlear implants as a means of developing oral speech and language” says Leslie Parent MS, CCC-A, senior pediatric audiologist at the Children’s Hospital of Michigan.

Qunnetta says when presented with the option to have cochlear implants, the family was uncertain whether they should proceed.

“We were very concerned about having our child have surgery at such a young age. At the same time, the rest of the family is a hearing family and not knowing sign language we were not sure if that would be the best option to communicate with E’Marie,” explains Qunnetta.

In October of 2016, after extensive discussion, the family decided to proceed with the cochlear implant surgery for E’Marie.

“I was thrilled when E’Marie’s family made the decision to proceed with cochlear implantation, because I knew she was a perfect candidate and would do very well with the implants. We opted to implant both ears. She recovered very well, and her implants were activated one month after surgery. Since then, her language skills have really blossomed, and now she is nearly caught up with her peers in terms of her language skills. She is a very social happy child, and I have really enjoyed watching her grow!” says Dr. Siegel.

Qunnetta recalls the joy after the implants were activated when she knew that E’Marie could distinguish sounds.

“When I called my other children from my house upstairs, E’Marie was startled. She also jumped when we closed the door. It was so exciting to see that my baby was reacting to sounds,” she says.

Since the cochlear implant procedure was done, Qunnetta says E’Marie is progressing rapidly with her speech and language development.

“We have to laugh now that sometimes she is talking so much that she needs to slow down. She is in a pre-school for kids with hearing impairment but is doing so well that her teacher said she may be able to attend kindergarten with the general education students. We were so pleased to hear one of her teachers comment about how bright E’Marie is and that nothing other than hearing is holding her back,” she says. 

E'MarieQunnetta and E’Marie’s grandmother Vicky, would like to express their gratitude for the care and treatment that E’Marie has had to give her the gift of hearing.

“Dr. Siegel and Leslie have been wonderful throughout this process. I really appreciated that Dr. Siegel calmly explained the procedure in terms that we could understand and did not push us one way or the other to make our decision,” says Vicky.

“For other parents who are thinking about the possibility of cochlear implants, I would highly recommend it. The thought of surgery is very scary for your child, but the end result has been amazing,” says Qunnetta.


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