“It’s really miraculous for people who have lost their hearing and can’t even use hearing aides,” he said. “And it is particularly good for children who are born deaf, who are identified early — within the first year or two of life — because when it is implanted early, they are likely to develop normal or near normal speech.”
In fact, surgery can be performed on babies as young as six months, as well as on adults, he said.
When Jacob was 2, his mother said she became concerned about his speech, and a hearing test showed he had slight hearing loss at higher decibels. In kindergarten, he needed a hearing aid. His hearing continued to go downhill.
“By the time he was 10, there was no hearing aid that could help him any more,” said Lois Landis, 54. “He was deaf.”
That was the year he received his implant, in Baltimore.
“Being able to get a cochlear implant turned his life around,” said his mother, who flew to South Florida with her husband, Jacob’s father Randy, for the trip’s finale. “His depression, his anger, was so overwhelming. Being able to get the cochlear implant, to be mainstreamed, made the biggest impact on his life.”
Jacob graduated from high school, got his associate’s degree in college and attended culinary school.
Indeed, the impact a cochlear implant can have is profound, said Dr. Samuel Ostrower, a cochlear implant surgeon at Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital in Hollywood.
“We see children’s eyes open,” he said. “Their eyes sparkle at the sound of their parents voices for the first time, and at the sound of their own voice for the first time.”
Yet, patients still require months or years of speech and language therapy as well as programming of the device to tailor it to their needs, he said.
As he completed his journey, Jacob’s supporters stressed his tenacity and dedication to the cause.
“He’s like a real life super hero,” said Ivette Cejas, director of the Barton G Kids Hear Now Cochlear Implant Family Resource Center at the University of Miami, which helps families, including those in financial need.
“You made it through all the obstacles,” Cejas told Jacob at Tuesday’s ceremony. “You made it to be your personal mission. But it has gone beyond your personal mission, to be at a national level.”