Naveen shows off his cochlear implant processor, which he wears behind his ear, and his transmitting coil, which attaches by magnet to the implant body surgically placed in his skull.
Naveen and his mom Sakuntala.
Naveen is at once shy and engaging. He hides his face at first meeting, but a little peek-a-boo warms him up easily. Once comfortable, he’s all ears, and ready to talk.
“How do you spell your name?”
“N-A-V-E-E-N,” he says, with good, clear enunciation
“Yaramala,” he corrects.
“How do you spell that?
“Y-A-R-A-M–A-L-A.” he says, again flawlessly.
What grade are you in Naveen Yaramala?
“So that makes you 11 years old?”
“Nine! You look older.”
“I’m gonna be 10 next month.”
Pretty unremarkable conversation.
What’s remarkable is that Naveen could be part of the conversation. Naveen Yaramala was born profoundly deaf. But behind each of his ears is a processor, and on his head are two round magnets––transmitting coils––that are telltale signs of cochlear implants. Thanks to the implants, he hears everything and speaks in perfect fourth-grade English. Also thanks to the implants––the first of which he got when he was 4––he was mainstreamed in school at first grade and is up to grade level in all his work. Probably a little past grade level.
Naveen is a perfect example of the difference cochlear implants are making in the lives of children and their families. The implants take profoundly or severely deaf children and adults out of the silence and into the world of sound, giving them speech and mainstreaming them in schools and in life.
“It is like a miracle to us, if you go back and see what he was like at 4,” says his mom, Sakuntala.
When Naveen was about 1, Sakuntala was concerned that her son wasn’t responsive. The family pediatrician assured her he was fine. Still not responding much at 2, she brought him to Children’s Audiology department and learned the truth.
“It was really hard to take,” Sakuntala says. “It was very hard to imagine, what kind of future he could have, what he could do.”
The Yaramala family was very proactive in making sure he could do a lot. They enrolled Naveen in a sign language program where he learned to communicate. For a year, Yaramala and Naveen moved to Redwood City so Naveen could attend the Peninsula Oral School for the Deaf, a program that stresses oral communication strategies, maximizing the use of each child's residual hearing and the development of spoken communication. He received a solid foundation in language.
At four, Naveen received his first implant.
“The first day, he was really scared,” Sakuntala says, “ he was crying when they turned it on.”
“ I cried because I couldn’t understand that well, then when I got used to it, I could understand everything,” Naveen explains.
“He learned really fast,” mom says. Within a year he was talking.
The second implant, done only months ago, made his hearing even better.
“It’s louder, but not that loud, I can hear more. Usually I know where sound is coming from,” Naveen says. “When I just has one, sound was okay, but with two it’s better.”
Naveen is thinking about studying violin next year and about being a doctor some day. He doesn’t need special education, or special services. His teachers get a microphone to clip on that goes directly to his processor. Whatever the cost of the surgery (about $60,000) and therapies and follow-up support, they are easily made up in long term savings to the school district and society.
Not to mention to one happy family and a very bright boy who can pursue his dreams.
To learn more about how cochlear implants work, click here.
To contact Children’s Cochlear Implant program, call 510-428-3344.