Documentary profiles family's tough choice

May 17, 2009 7:21:58 AM PDT
Cochlear implant is an amazing technology that enables children and adults who have severe to profound hearing loss to hear. But, at the same time, it is controversial for many people in the deaf community, especially deaf parents with deaf children. Every parent wants the best for their children, even if it means giving them the opportunity to hear. A Chicago-area family is profiled in an upcoming documentary that shows their life as they struggle with cochlear implants.

"Louder than Words" is a feature documentary that explores the real life drama of the Stark family. Parents Michael and Jill were born deaf. Their two children were also born deaf. Jeffrey, who is almost 3, and 7-month-old Melissa.

"We decided to have both kids implanted. We wanted them to use the phone," said Jill.

Jeffrey had a cochlear implant when he was 17 months old

"The results are amazing...Jeffrey is blabbing, speaking words, 25 to 30 clear words. It's amazing," said Jill.

Melissa will be implanted this month and mom Jill will also have the same procedure this summer.

Director Saj Adibs got involved with the family after working on a different project.

"At first I didn't understand the controversy," said Adibs, "but after a little bit of time passed and I heard a lot of different stories-- I've met a lot of deaf families and I listen to them and I really try to put myself in their shoes, and now I could understand, it's a culture, and I could understand, if you get a cochlear implant and you become hearing just like everyone else, I could see how that, you know, could take away from that culture that has been established."

University of Chicago's pediatric otolaryngologist Dr. Dana Suskind explains the significance of implants.

"It doesn't stop them from being deaf," said Suskind. "It allows them to develop auditory access which allows them to develop listening and spoke language skills."

It is highly recommended for young children.

"The FDA has approved it down to the age of 12 months, but more and more centers are implanting children earlier and earlier," said Dr. Suskind.

"Louder than Words" is expected to be finished sometime next year.

"I am going to stay with the family, see them through their cochlear implants for the baby and for the mom," said Adibs. "I think when it's done, it's going to be a complete story that's going to be beyond just, you know, deaf culture and cochlear implant, it's going to be a story of parents and doing what they believe is right for their children."

"We found that this is a family who is able to bring together two different cultures and it wasn't a matter of choosing one verse the other. It was the matter of bringing it together, and it's a beautiful story," Adibs said.

"We hope for our children to be born hearing makes life easier. We don't want them to have the same struggles that we had. We knew that cochlear implants are much better now than 10 years ago. I know technology changed so much. Why do we have to miss that opportunity? Let's grab that," said Michael Stark.

"Louder than Words" will not be out until next year, but if you want to know more about cochlear implants, go to www.louderthanwordsdoc.com/.

http://www.uchicagokidshospital.org/physicians/dana-suskind.html


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