One-year-old Ayla Esler burst into a smile after hearing sound for the first time Tuesday, thanks to cochlear implants installed in the toddler’s ears last month at the Cook Children’s Hospital in Fort Worth, Texas.
The moment was caught in a Facebook video posted by the hospital and viewed at least 60,000 times. The mom, Anna Esler, is seen tearing up as she watches her daughter, who was born with profound hearing loss, react to noise in the room.
“I was really overwhelmed,” Anna told NBC. “We had waited a long time, just to see her respond. I was just so incredibly thankful. It was just beautiful to see her hear for the first time.”
The video shows the rest of the family standing by as an audiologist activated Ayla’s implants Tuesday. Ayla’s dad said the toddler was able to hear him sing for the first time the next day.
“Wednesday morning, I put the implants on and she was fussing with the adjustment,” Will Esler said. “I started singing to her and she calmed down.”
When Ayla failed her newborn hearing test, the family went through a long process to determine the extent of her hearing loss, her father said.
“If they’re in that severe to profound range, hearing aids don’t work well,” said Dr. Lisa Christensen, an audiologist at Cook Children’s Hospital. “They need something stronger, so we move to the cochlear implant.”
During the procedure, a surgeon inserts an electrode array into the cochlea, a structure in the inner ear. An external device converts noise into electrical impulses and sends them to the electrodes. Christensen said recent advances have allowed wearers to perceive more natural-sounding speech.
Ayla is still adjusting to the implants and will continue learning how to use them in weekly therapy sessions. Her parents said they were surprised the video had spread so far and hoped it would help other parents deciding to “go the cochlear route for their kids.”