The girls were born deaf, but around the beginning of 2004 they had cochlear implants surgically inserted.
Now they can hear.
“When you give birth to a baby, you anticipate your child growing up to do all the things you were able to do. When they told me she was deaf,” Lisa says of Elizabeth, “they took away all these things I knew as a child and I knew as an adult.”
It was a learning process, she says, for her and her husband and their firstborn.
Though many in the deaf community debate the idea that being deaf is something that needs to be corrected, the Maricontis weighed their options and decided to go forward with the operations.
“I’m very proud that they are deaf,” says Lisa.
“But we want to give them every opportunity available.”
Cochlear implants help people with certain kinds of hearing impairments or who are entirely deaf. The implants are small devices that are inserted with a magnet under the skin behind an ear and are connected to the cochlea, a snail-shaped structure of the inner ear that converts sound vibrations into nerve signals that are sent to the brain.
A device like a hearing aid is then hooked over the ear, which connects to the internal magnet. Typically the surgery is done in only one ear, so as technology progresses the other ear is available for new medical developments.
The portion of the implant that goes5 under the skin costs around $25,000. The procedure, including the post-operative aural rehabilitation process, can exceed $50,000.
In many cases, as with the Maricontis, insurance companies cover the implant for one ear. (Hearing aids or second ear cochlear implants are often not covered.)
The changes have been great and small.
“If one of them is outside,” Lisa says about her concerns for her daughters’ safety, “I can call to them before they run out in the street.”
The implants have changed communication among family members, as well, from lively chatter at the dinner table to the girls being able to tell Grandma about their day.