A little over six months ago David and Michelle were anxiously fundraising for their young son, Austin, to receive cochlear implants. Morgan was plastered with the battle cry “Audible Ears for Austin.” Neighbors, friends and strangers joined in the effort to raise money for the costly surgery.
Six months later the Manning’s are in high spirits after the successful operation and recovery. Austin has received the miracle of hearing.
Nov. 2, 2012, was a highly anticipated day for the Manning family. They took their little boy, who had turned one the month prior, to Primary Children’s Medical Center to undergo surgery. Dr. Shelton, who practices at the University of Utah, placed cochlear implants, which are devices used to aid hearing in people who are profoundly deaf. After allowing a short period of time for Austin to heal, the Mannings received clearance from the surgeon to go ahead and turn the devices on. On Nov. 26 Austin’s audiologist turned the implants on and he heard the world around him for the first time.
Dave and Michelle had looked forward to this day with excitement, yet doctors had given many warnings. A child’s first sounds can often be scary and overwhelming. The anxious parents watched as their little boy smiled at his first sounds. As he played with toys, the doctor made the adjustments. As he heard the noises around him he actually turned and kissed his dad, almost as if to say thank you.
Six months later Michelle reports that Austin loves hearing. If one of the implants falls out, he motions for his mom to help. He also can’t wait for them to be turned on after naps.
However, because of his young age, he sometimes plays with the exterior portion of the implants; he has been able to take them apart out of youthful curiosity. Luckily he leaves them alone and seems to be happy to have them. Even though he is only 19 months old, he is aware that the implants allow him to hear.
The Mannings felt they worked hard to prepare for the implants, and their transition into this major change has gone very well. The family continues to work hard to ensure the devices will be as successful as possible. Hearing through a cochlear implant is different than natural hearing and it doesn’t come automatically.
A therapist visits the family once a week for an hour to teach different activities or skills they can work on together. They also take Austin to Primary Children’s Rehab in Ogden, which has been scaled back to currently going every other week. The family uses the things they learn from the therapists to help Austin distinguish sounds.
Every mother watches in awe and adoration as her infant learns and experiences life for the first time. Michelle’s experience is amplified by worrying for so long if her little boy would ever be able to hear. Now as she watches her little boy play with a horse or car and make a corresponding noise, she is proud and overwhelmingly grateful.
“Numerous times, I have been very grateful that he can hear when it has been a safety issue,” Michelle said. She is happy she can quickly warn her son of hazards such as walking towards the road or trying to open the oven door.
The whole family has heard the world in a different way than before. Most learn to hear before they are born. As babies enter the world they hear and recognize sounds. They learn that certain things make sounds. What most people take for granted, the Manning’s see as a miracle in little Austin.
Simple things like making a noise for brushing teeth or making the sound the whipped cream can makes engulfs the family with pure happiness. Austin’s older brother loves to talk to little Austin and, to the whole family’s delight, Austin babbles back. He is building his vocabulary of words he is able to say. Sometimes he makes his mouth move to form the sound but is unable to actually make the sound.
Therapists say that he is developing well. They say that without the implants, he wouldn’t be making any sounds at all. So when Austin babbles and makes noises during church, the whole congregation can feel that it is a miracle and appreciates those sweet little sounds.
“What we’ve been doing is paying off,” Michelle said of the implants and Austin’s recovery. “All we hoped for and more.”
The Mannings are very grateful to everyone who helped them. “We wouldn’t be able to do it without help.” Michelle said, “Many have donated their time, money and talents for our family. There are many that are still helping us.”