New device helps eight-year-old hear mom's voice for the first t

New device helps eight-year-old hear mom's voice for the first time

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Jamie Fernandez (right), who's eight and a half years old, recently moved to Maryville from Matamoros, Mexico, along with his mom and little brother, to join his father. Jamie Fernandez (right), who's eight and a half years old, recently moved to Maryville from Matamoros, Mexico, along with his mom and little brother, to join his father.
"He compares himself to his brother. 'Mama, why brother, he's got both ears. And I just have one,'" Mayra Fernandez said. "He compares himself to his brother. 'Mama, why brother, he's got both ears. And I just have one,'" Mayra Fernandez said.
"They're not as tired. They're not as frustrated. They're so much happier. They're so much more awake, because they have been at school trying so hard to hear on that one side," Dr. Whittle said. "They're not as tired. They're not as frustrated. They're so much happier. They're so much more awake, because they have been at school trying so hard to hear on that one side," Dr. Whittle said.
Jamie hears his mom whisper for the first time. Jamie hears his mom whisper for the first time.

By LORI TUCKER
6 News Anchor

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - A local child born with just one ear is the first patient in East Tennessee to benefit from new, breakthrough technology.

6 News was there at the very moment the switch to normal hearing was turned on.

Jamie Fernandez, who's eight and a half years old, recently moved to Maryville from Matamoros, Mexico, along with his mom and little brother.

They joined the father of the family, who works as a landscaper here in Tennessee.

Jamie's hearing problems have made it tough to learn, to speak and to make new friends. His family hopes a new device will expand his world.

Jamie's right ear isn't fully formed, so sound can't reach his inner ear.

"He compares himself to his brother. 'Mama, why brother, he's got both ears. And I just have one,'" Mayra Fernandez said of her son. "'I don't know, sweetie.'"

Jamie recently underwent the first part of the process to fit him with the latest technology recently approved by the FDA.

He underwent surgery to provide a magnetized anchor for a sound processor. The whole device is called the Sophono implant.

"We go within the hairline behind the ear and make an incision and then you drill into the skull and you put this device in there that's basically a piece of metal which has a magnet associated with it. Then you just close the incision up," explained Dr. John Little, an ear, nose and throat specialist at Children's Hospital.

The implant creates a vibration using the skull as a conduit for transmitting sound.

Thanks to quick recovery time from surgery, just a month later, Jamie was ready to try the external processor, which looks like a hearing aid or a bluetooth device.

As Dr. Alison Whittle got ready to turn on the switch, she shared what kinds of changes kids like Jamie go through once they can hear.

"They're not as tired. They're not as frustrated. They're so much happier. They're so much more awake, because they have been at school trying so hard to hear on that one side," she said.

When it was time to try the device on Jamie, he was hesitant, but said he liked.

In another test, Jamie could, for the first time in his life, hear his mom whisper behind him.

Jamie broke into a big smile when he first heard his mom's voice.

It's what the whole Fernandez family has been hoping and praying for.

"I'm very happy and excited," Jamie's dad said.

"I'm excited," Mayra said.

The next step for Jamie is plastic surgery to reconstruct his ear, which will likely take place next year.

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