Cochlear implants will let Auburn toddler hear her parents for the first time
Karlee Ray grabs a quick nap with her mother, Joelle, shortly after her surgery at Boston Children's Hospital to have her cochlear implants installed. (COURTESY)
Karlee Ray poses with her parents, Joelle and Ryan, at their Auburn home. Born profoundly deaf 10 months ago, Karlee underwent surgery to have cochlear implants installed earlier this month. She will hear the first sounds of her life when doctors turn them on in August. (BENJAMIN C. KLEIN/Union Leader Correspondent)
"It was a huge shock when we found out; we were definitely nervous, sad, and scared," said her mother, Joelle Ray, a restaurant manager.
Karlee was born with a genetic condition called Connexin 26, which can result in complete hearing loss that can't be helped with standard hearing aids. While Karlee has grown up over the last 10 months into a healthy, precocious and happy child, her parents still wanted to give her the gift of hearing.
"Doctors have told us that there is a 99 percent chance that she will be able to hear when they turn them on. It is so exciting. It would be fine if she couldn't have them, but to know she will hear our voices and the dogs barking, and hear all the wonderful things in life we take for granted — she will have the opportunity to hear," Joelle said.
Her parents say they're sure that even without the implants, Karlee would still grow up a happy girl.
"You look away for a second and she is halfway up the steps, or smashing the Playstation controller, or trying to eat dog food, or locking herself in the bathroom," Ryan laughed.
"It's become normal to bang on the floor and get her attention that way," Ryan said. "If anything now, once she can hear, we will have to make adjustments by calling her name to encourage her to use her implants."
"She can already sign things like 'want more,' 'all done' and 'come here.' She signed 'more' for the first time at 8 months. It was so exciting, I cried, just to know that she is communicating with us," Joelle said.
"She will be able to speak normally, but probably not until she is 3," her mother said. "And doctors have explained to us that she will have no frame of reference for noises, so if she squeaks a ball and the dog barks, she will think the ball made the noise. If we don't work really hard with the specialists from Easter Seals and her doctors, she will be stunted."