Parents Of Baby Ayla Open Up After Video Goes Viral
Little girl's cochlear implant success seen around the world
By now you've probably met Ayla. The video of her hearing for the first time after a successful cochlear implant by Cook Children's Ear, Nose and Throat surgeon Kristen Honsinger, M.D., has become a viral sensation.
Will and Anna Esler, Ayla's parents, answered a few questions for us to help us learn more about Ayla and what the family has experienced over the past year.
How did you find out Ayla was deaf?
Ayla failed her newborn screening at the hospital, and after we took her back and she failed it again, we were referred to a great audiologist here in Amarillo who helped us begin to discern the depth of her loss. From there we started working with Early Childhood Intervention, who helped us learn what life is like for kids with hearing loss and introduced us to an amazing community of parents and kids with hearing loss. We also started working with Ayla’s speech therapist, has become a dear friend and has done so much for our whole family—she even came with us to Fort Worth for Ayla’s surgery and her activation—and she’s helped us learn what Ayla’s loss and now her newfound hearing means for the whole family. After a few months in, we were connected to the amazing team at Cook Children’s, who have gone above and beyond to help our daughter hear. The care that we’ve received from them has been extraordinary, and we’re so grateful for them.
What was going through your mind when Ayla’s implants were activated?
Anna: Every child responds differently when their cochlear implants (CIs) are activated, and so we didn’t know what kind of reaction she would have. And even though I knew it would work, there was still some doubt in my mind, so when I saw her responding to sound I was overwhelmed by thankfulness to God and to everyone else who has been a part of this journey.
Will: Ayla has had a lot of family and friends praying for her, and we saw God answer those prayers when her devices were activated. Like Anna, I was excited and scared and nervous and hopeful all at the same time. I thought she would probably cry and scream when her CIs were activated—and she did do that later when it became overwhelming—but to see her hearing sound and enjoying it was just incredible.
What was it like getting to this point?
Being deaf isn’t bad, it’s just different, and so we had spent a lot of time preparing ourselves for what life would be like without Ayla hearing. We had to let go of some things, like her knowing the sound of our voices, the sound of music, the sound of laughter. We had to prepare ourselves to see her enjoy those things in a different way, through the vibration of them, to “hear” with her eyes. When we found out that cochlear implants were an option for her, sound became a reality for her again, and we are so grateful for that.
How is Ayla responding now, what kinds of changes have you seen?
She still has challenges ahead of her—we have a year’s worth of catch up to play, and whereas most kids learn to hear naturally we will actually have to teach her to hear, to teach her that sound has meaning. But she’s already responding positively—sometimes she turns to sounds (which she had never done before), she dances to music, she’s starting to calm down when we sing to her if she’s upset. We really couldn’t be more thankful for the new opportunities our little girl has thanks to everyone in her life.
We know it's about more than medical expertise and advanced technology. It's about working together to tackle even the most complex ear, nose and throat conditions. At Cook Children's, our expert pediatric specialists diagnose and treat many ear, nose and throat conditions. The Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) staff also collaborates with other specialties within Cook Children's system to treat and rehabilitate children with speech and hearing disorders. Meet our team by clicking here. If you would like to schedule an appointment, refer a patient or speak to our staff, please call our offices at 682-885-6850 or click here.
The cochlear implant (CI) program was created to serve children diagnosed with hearing loss who receive limited to no hearing aid benefit and whose families are dedicated to improving their child's communication mode.
Team members include a pediatric otolaryngologist, otologist/neurotologist, audiologists and speech-language pathologists with specialized training in the Auditory-Verbal Therapy approach. Other professionals may be added to your child's team if needed. These professionals may include physical therapy, occupational therapy or psychological services. We conduct monthly case conferences with CI physicians to discuss patients care. To learn more about the program, click here.
Get to know Kristen Honsinger, M.D.
Kristen Honsinger proudly joined the Cook Children's Otolaryngology team in 2017. Originally from Southern California, Dr. Honsinger worked as a teacher for two years prior to attending medical school, where she first developed a love of working with children. She completed her residency in Otolaryngology – Head & Neck Surgery at West Virginia University and spent an additional year of fellowship training in Pediatric Otolaryngology at Nationwide Children's Hospital, affiliated with The Ohio State University. She is Board Certified by the American Board of Otolaryngology.
Dr. Honsinger's clinical and research interests include pediatric hearing loss, airway obstruction, pediatric sinus disease and all aspects of Pediatric Otolaryngology. She shares her love of working with children with her husband, who is a Pediatric Anesthesiologist. In her spare time, she enjoys running, cooking and traveling.