| 2 min read | by Lonnie Huhman, |

January 28 marked a new chapter for 17-month-old Emma Chadwell of Saline as she had her cochlear implants activated and began hearing the voices of her parents.

Her parents Kim and Jake said they’re optimistic this will open many doors for Emma and it’s their hope that addressing Emma’s hearing loss at this early stage will help now and into the future.

Emma received her implant from the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital and its Cochlear Implant program.


“It’s a whole new world,” said Kim Chadwell of the activation. “It’s our hope this will give her the best chance for developing speech and language skills.”

Both of Emma’s parents said it was a challenging time with a lot of emotion leading up to this new chapter.

The hearing issues first came to light when Emma failed the hearing part of her newborn screening test. Kim Chadwell said two months later, they were told Emma had mild/moderate hearing loss and would need hearing aids, which she began using and saw some help with them.

However, it was months later and after a CT scan that Kim said they were told Emma had Mondini Dysplasia, (an abnormality of the inner ear) and EVA (enlarged vestibular aqueduct,) which in combination would lead to significant hearing loss.  

“It wasn’t a matter of if, but when,” Kim said of Emma’s hearing loss. “For her, it was happening so quickly.”

According to Mott’s website, a cochlear implant is an electronic device that stimulates residual nerve fibers in the inner ear.

“These electrical pulses are sent to the brain and interpreted as sound,” the Mott’s website said. “An implant system consists of an external speech processor, located entirely behind the ear, and an internal, surgically implanted electrode array.”

Mott’s said it provides several types of cochlear implants, depending on a patient’s need and all of the devices used are FDA-approved, multi-channel cochlear implant systems, and provide multiple speech perception strategies and other features.

One reason why the Chadwell family is telling their story to the community is to raise some awareness. From the screening test, to the CT scan and its results, and their choice of cochlear implants, they said the past year and a half has led them down a path they knew very little about at first.

They emphasized that all families and individuals confronted by hearing loss have their own, unique paths and must do what’s right for themselves. They said for them, seeking out research and information to help inform their decisions played a big part.

“Do your own research. Every family is different and we think educating yourself as much as possible is important as well as setting goals,” Kim Chadwell said.

They said their end goal is giving Emma the best chance of developing speech and language skills like any other child. Knowing hearing aids would not be able to provide the support needed by someone profoundly deaf, they said they opted for her to receive cochlear implants.

Now they are hopeful for the future.

As part of the new chapter, Emma and her parents each week attend speech lessons with a professional. Also as full-time working parents, they have worked to educate their daycare, who they say have been great.

Above all, they said they are excited to see Emma’s progress going forward in her speech and language skills.

In sitting down recently with the Chadwells to hear their story and seeing Emma play with her toys, walking down the stairs with her mom and smiling at everyone around her, it’s evident that this new chapter is a hopeful one.