It is not an overstatement to say that were it not for Advanced Bionics, I wouldn’t know my daughter. Bina, my daughter, was born deaf. The doctors categorized her deafness as “profound.” Back then, if you turned on a leaf blower right behind her, she wouldn’t hear it.
The decision to get a cochlear implant was difficult. A doctor in Atlanta, Georgia, where we lived at the time, advised against it – and he had done more cochlear implant surgeries than any doctor in the state. I guess he was concerned about the unique challenges presented by Bina’s cerebral palsy.
It was a tough time for my wife and me. Here we were with a toddler who had motor issues and profound deafness, with whom we couldn’t communicate. Bina’s cerebral palsy impacted the functionality of her right hand, which would have made ASL an unrealistic option.
Here was a beautiful human being, wanting to express herself and engage with the world like everyone else.
My wife and I were crestfallen. Here was a beautiful human being, wanting to express herself and engage with the world like everyone else she could see, but being confined by limiting realities that she hadn’t caused and were beyond her control. All we could all do was smile at each other, yearning to make a connection.
Among the first things we did after moving to North Carolina was to get a second opinion, this time from a younger doctor. Unlike the crusty, old, fossilized doctor in Atlanta (do I sound bitter?), our North Carolina doctor strongly recommended that Bina, then three years old, get the implant.
I will never forget the moment it became clear that Bina was registering sound. It was about three months after the surgery, and the audiologists had slowly turned up the volume on her implant during this time. One day, Bina started pushing a button on a toy truck that would make engine noises. Bina kept pushing it over and over in fascination.
That was 19 years ago. Today, Bina has cochlear implants in both ears and hears very well. She hears so well that when she gets frustrated with me and her mom – as teens are prone to do – she’ll sometimes take the sound processors off her head so she doesn’t have to hear us.
Hearing is elemental to learning to speak, and thus form relationships with people through spoken language. Bina communicates as well as her two brothers. As a result of the cochlear implants, she easily shares her preferences, ideas, and opinions. Sometimes the rest of us wish that we had cochlear implants that we could take off when Bina lets her opinions fly!
When people learn to hear, they will also want to be heard. The fact that Bina is comfortable expressing herself is a blessing. Once deaf people learn to hear, it’s important that non-deaf people take the time to listen. Bina has proven to be a strong and unique human being. She was the first of my teens to get a job, she is enrolled in our local community college, and she aims to have a career in digital media.
Once deaf people learn to hear, it’s important that non-deaf people take the time to listen.
Thankfully, due to the wonders of technology, in the future, she’ll likely own an autonomous vehicle so that her cerebral palsy won’t interfere with her operating a car.
Yes, technology can be a wonderful thing. AB’s cochlear implant technology not only gave Bina the ability to hear, but it gave her the ability to speak, express herself, form relationships, become employed, and have a bright future. In other words, her implants transformed her entire life, not just her hearing.
This past summer, Bina took a tour of AB’s headquarters so she could see how her implants were made. She had been watching AB’s “Hearing Stories,” and it had become a dream of hers to tour the facility. The entire AB team welcomed Bina like a family member, taking care to answer all her questions. She even got to meet, and thank, some of the AB team members who likely constructed her first cochlear implant.
After the tour, on the way back to our hotel, my wife and I asked Bina how she thought the tour went. She was quiet for a moment, and then burst into tears. She was inconsolable.
After a few minutes, she said, “My dream came true.”
Thanks, Advanced Bionics, for all the dreams you make come true for so many people in the world.
Bill Treasurer is the founder of Giant Leap Consulting, a courage-building company, and the author of six books, including his newest, Leadership Two Words at a Time: Simple Truths for Leading Complicated People. Over the course of three decades, Bill has worked with thousands of leaders across the globe from such renowned organizations as NASA, eBay, UBS Bank, Lenovo, Spanx, Southern Nuclear, Walsh Construction, and the National Science Foundation.