Three-Year-Old Hears For The First Time Thanks To First-Time Surgery

By Nick Venable | Updated

One’s sympathy and empathy for children usually rise exponentially once that person reaches parenthood, and in ways that I never could have imagined before I got there myself. Five years ago, I would have appreciated this story wholeheartedly, both for the amazing medical advancement and out of happiness for the child. Nowadays, reading something like this automatically tilts my head to the side and widens my eyes to the size of half-dollars while tiny rivulets of tears threaten to show themselves. “Dam the eyelids, boys!”

Grayson Clamp, a three-year-old from Charlotte, North Carolina, was born without cochlear nerves, which are necessary in order to hear things. As part of a clinical trial through the FDA, UNC Hospital Doctors Craig Buchman, a professor in Otolarygology and Head and Neck Surgery, and Matthew Ewend, a chairman in the Department of Neurosurgery, performed an auditory brain stem implant surgery which gave young Grayson the ability to hear for the first time in his life. While similar implants have been used on adults since 1979, this is the first time a child in the U.S. has had the surgery, and a few weeks later, he’s already adapting well, making his own sounds and enjoying music. His parents couldn’t be happier, as if anything more obvious could possibly be said.

“It’s been phenomenal for us,” said father Len Clamp. Nicole Clamp adds, “We don’t know exactly what it’s like for him. We don’t know exactly what he hears. His brain is still trying to organize itself to use sound.” Similar to a cochlear implant, which was ineffective on Grayson, electrical stimulation is used to process sounds, only in this way, a microchip is put into the brain itself. And that’s when the voices started…

“Let’s give the Clamps a clamp.”

I can’t possibly imagine going through life without being able to hear, which is a rather selfish point of view, I know. So many important things involve being able to hear, including awesome music, air raid sirens, being able to tell when the cookies in the oven are done, and in knowing if anybody could hear me fart just now.

And because my words alone could never impart just how truly enriching this news really is, here’s a video explaining the surgery itself, before revealing Grayson’s reaction when he hears his father’s voice for the first time. I can’t say I would have allowed someone to film me going through this, at least not without face pixilation and voice-changing software.

Now I guess the only way to advance this further is to perform it on alien babies.