Woman receives gift of hearing, thanks to high-tech implant

The first question Rebekah Edelman was asked was "What does sound, sound like?"

"It sounds just like Alvin and the Chipmunks to me," she said, to laughter.

Edelman couldn't stop smiling about the miracle in her ear allowing her to hear nearly every sound for the first time since she was just 15 years old.

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"My hearing is that I can still hear like low sounds," she said. "And so hearing all the high-pitched sounds and the c-h's, just all the word endings, is amazing."

What she received was the cochlear nucleus profile thin straight implant. Dr.  Trac Duong, an otolaryngologist, installed the implant, the world's smallest, inside Edelman's right ear last month for the first time anywhere in Washington state.

"This is an advance in technology but I think it represents a great leap forward," said Dr. Duong.  "So there's been steady progress, steady advance.  But I think we're at that critical point now where we have enough experience and we have the technological advances to put both of those two things together to create something that is really far superior."

Just how superior was immediately evident when it was turned up. Edelman jumped slightly and a smile quickly crossed her face, as her boyfriend looked on.

Now at 24, her brain must begin to associate the sounds she is learning to hear once again.

"Like oh, shake my drink," she said, shaking a cup filled with ice.  "That's what that sounds like.  Just to make little connections so everything makes sense again.

But there is one thing.

"I'm hoping it's not always ‘chipmunk-y,’ " said Edelman.

Still she is so excited she now wants one for every deaf person who'd like to hear.

But new technology isn't cheap.

The implant alone costs $22,000.

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