Family says cochlear implants helped son who is legally deaf learn to speak

A life changing surgery for a Chicago boy could now change more children's futures, allowing those with severe hearing loss to hear and speak.

New research from Lurie Children's Hospital shows new hope for deaf children.

Doctors say babies who get cochlear implants before they turn one are more likely to speak and not have to rely on sign language.

Max Van Dyke is a pretty typical 12-year-old boy. You have to look closely to see anything not so typical.

“If I took these off and walked under the El, I wouldn't be able to hear at all,” Max said.

Max was born deaf, but got life changing cochlear implants at just 6 month of age.

“I think it incredibly helped how I live and how I'm seen and just everything about me,” Max said.

“It's very important. We start hearing the minute we are born,” said Dr. Nancy Young.

Doctor Young from Lurie Children’s Hospital found that implanting the electronic hearing device before a child is 12 months means they're more likely to speak.

“Our study shows that these kids compared to those even a little bit older that they develop their listening skills much more rapidly,” Dr. Young said.

Researchers at Lurie also say they found cochlear implants are safe, even when it's a baby undergoing the surgery. They're now pushing to make early implantation a public policy priority, especially when most parents have a clear goal.

“The most common answer that we hear is I want my child to hear, I want my child to speak,” Dr. Young said.

Max's mom, Kristen Van Dyke, hopes this research means more children get access to her son's treatment.

Right now, cochlear implants are only FDA approved for kids over one year.

“It shouldn't just be people who are able to fight the system and fight their insurance company,” Kristen said.

Max hopes he can be a role model and strong voice for what's possible.