1-year-old hears parents’ voices for first time, thanks to new cochlear implant

The first voices that Maitê Medeiros Machado heard was of her parents. That in itself might not be unusual. But that momentous milestone occurred when Maitê was more than a year old.

Maitê was born deaf and up until her first birthday, she never heard a sound. Not the calming coos of her father or her mother’s sweet singing. Her mother, Gabriele Medeiros, said instead, they would exchange looks and gestures during feedings, with loving affection to help communicate.

Before Maitê's birth, Gabriele was exposed to two viruses: rubella and cytomegalovirus (CMV). Women who develop an active CMV infection during pregnancy can pass the virus to their babies, who might then experience symptoms and develop conditions, like deafness.

After Maitê was born, Gabriele longed to tell her bedtime stories and sing her lullabies each night. The family looked into solutions and treatment options to help give Maitê access to sound. This summer, their wish became a reality.  

Maitê received a cochlear implant during a recent surgery at the Carlos Chagas Hospital in Guarulhos, an Amil hospital, part of UnitedHealthcare Global.

Maitê's cochlear implant was activated a few months ago, giving her the opportunity to finally hear her mother and father’s voices — a very emotional moment for the family and for the doctors who treated Maitê. Together, they celebrated what they said was the beginning of a life with fewer limitations for the child.

Dr. Caio Rogério Simão, the ear, nose and throat (ENT) doctor who performed the surgery, said in cases like Maitê, early screening and diagnosis is key. The sooner the implant is placed, the better the result, he said.

With Maitê’s new hearing, she still has a long journey ahead of her, including specialized speech therapy and learning new sounds, Dr. Simão said.

Maitê's parents are grateful and already are planning her second birthday in April. The party will feature decorations with inclusive characters: kids wearing glasses, hearing aids and in wheelchairs. And, of course, "Happy Birthday" sung by many voices for Maitê to hear for the first time.

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