This year we received the best gift in the world followed by some information that was really sad. First we experienced the miracle of giving birth to a beautiful, happy, baby boy who we named Oliver (a little brother for 2 year old sister Roxy). Then we found out he was born deaf.
We were devastated, wondered why, and felt a sense of disappointment and loss. Those who can’t hear can’t learn to speak and have all kinds of other challenges. We love Oliver so much and we want him to have every opportunity to grow up hearing, talking, and developing to his fullest potentials in education, career, and family—to have the chance to fulfill his hopes and dreams and give back to society through his participation and achievements.
All of those dreams might still be possible through medical technology that could bring him from deafness into the hearing world. Cochlear implants are that technology. They are surgically placed in the inner ear with part of the device resting just under the skin behind the ear. A magnet whose field goes through the skin holds a processor and a tiny microphone against the outside of the head. The sound on the outside is converted into electrical impulses that are sent to the brain, which “hears” the impulses. So, Oliver could have the chance to grow up hearing and speaking clearly, something we all take for granted!
Research shows that the earlier a pre-lingually profoundly deaf child gets a cochlear implant, the better the chance of fully developing hearing and speech. If a child has no sound input by certain times, the ability to form parts of speech is lost forever. Our surgeon’s and our goal is to place cochlear implants in both ears as soon as possible; the optimum age is between 6 and 8 months. Since Oliver was born on July 11, he will turn 6 months old in January, so we are on a tight timeline.
We have done everything we can for Oliver, including 2 Auditory Steady State Response tests, 2 Brainstem Evoked Response tests, a CT scan and an MRI, several sound booth hearing tests, otoacoustic emissions testing, and tympanometry. We have also tried traditional hearing aids on Oliver which have not helped. As you can imagine, it has been a busy time for us, but we are committed to doing everything we possibly can for Oliver while there is still time.
Here is our dilemma. We can’t do any more on our own… we will need the help of others. Our insurance company refuses to pay for any cochlear implant surgery for children under one year old. This is in spite of the fact that the research shows that the best results are for 6 to 8 month olds. Additionally, Oliver should get an implant in each ear (just like we correct sight in both eyes, it’s better to correct hearing in both ears), yet the insurance company won’t pay for this implant either. With one implant after one year old, Oliver would be able to hear noises or hear a voice talking. With two, he will hear nearly as well as you and me, develop normal speech, be able to locate where noises are coming from, and identify whose voice is talking.
Without the insurance company, the cost of the necessary surgery will be approximately $150,000. We need to gather this money before his currently scheduled surgery date of January 23, 2006. That’s less than a month. By selling what we can, and borrowing money, and with the generosity of our community and family, we hope to have enough before the surgery.
There is a special surgery fund set up for Oliver which is open to receive donations. We would appreciate any amount that you can give toward the cost of Oliver’s surgery. We realize that this is a lot of money to be raised, and that each one of you has your own needs within your family that require money, but we are counting on the spirit of giving from everyone we know to make this surgery happen. We really need our community now.
Please give whatever amount you feel comfortable contributing. No amount is too small, or too big, and you are not obligated or expected to give, but we are asking you to donate if you can. We hope to put together enough prior to the surgery, but Oliver can also accept donations after the surgery to help continue to pay the medical bills.
Please make your check payable to:
The Oliver Wolff Fund
The fund is through a bank. If anyone would like to make an anonymous donation, the best way is to send a check directly to the bank for deposit. If you want to be sure of anonymity, please include a note asking for it to be an anonymous donation and the bank will not list the source. The info is as follows:
Check payable to: "The Oliver Wolff Fund"
Thank you for your consideration. Oliver will thank you too, when with this technology, he learns to speak. And in 20 years, we know he will truly appreciate what you have done to connect him with our world.
Tad, Shannon, Roxy, and Oliver Wolff
P.S. Please help us in our fundraising efforts by copying this letter to whomever you can (family, friends, coworkers, church members, anyone). The more people we can reach who have a compassionate heart, the more likely Oliver will be given the chance to hear!
The best surgeons in this country and internationally are recommending early and/or bilateral implants including these leaders in the specialty: Dr. Joseph Roberson at California Ear Institute, Dr. B. Robert Peters at Dallas Hearing Foundation, Dr. Richard Miyamoto at Indiana University, Dr. Thomas Balkany at the Miami Ear Institute, Dr. Noel Cohen at New York University Medical Center, and research out of Germany and Italy, to name just a few. It is argued that the early and/or bilaterally implanted children have better and earlier formation of sounds without “deaf speech”, they do better in school and learning environments, they hear better in noise and are therefore more functional in crowds, there is less fatigue with hearing, there is better speed of comprehension of language, more sound information is received by the brain, they have better localization of sound which is important in many functional ways including being warned of approaching danger (cars, animals, etc), they have less “head shadow effect”, they have higher self-confidence since they are not always trying to fill in the gaps of everything they do not hear, they process conversations faster, and can overhear conversations better (which is where we accumulate about 90% of our language).
When implanted later than 6-8 months, the deaf child is delayed in the first and early developmental milestones for speech development such as babbling, production of sounds, first one word utterances by 12 months old, and the comprehension that sounds have meaning and language exists. This causes an automatic delay in speech and language development which requires much more speech therapy and labor on the child’s, family’s and therapist’s part over the first few years post-implant to try bringing the child to developmental age for speech and language. This not only means that it takes more time and effort with less potential for best results, but it also costs everyone more money.
Primer on cochlear implants: www.letthemhear.org/hearing/implants.php
Dr. Miyamoto’s presentation of his 6 month implant at the NIH : (GREAT WEBCAST if you have the chance to watch it.): http://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/hearing/cochlear_videocast.asp
Implant sound simulator: http://www.utdallas.edu/~loizou/cimplants/cdemos.htm
Search the research here: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi