The first-ever auditory stem implant in a child was recently received by a 3-year-old boy from Charlotte, N.C., named Grayson Clamp.

Grayson was given the device, which allows his brain to process sound, during a surgery performed last month at University of North Carolina Hospitals.

Unfortunately, Grayson was born with no cochlear nerves in either ear, and consequently, could not hear.

A previous study showed that deaf children benefit the most from cochlear implants if they are received early in life, and will experience notable improvements in communication skills.

However, without any nerves in the ear, a cochlear implant was not effective when Grayson was 18-months-old.

Therefore, the scientists turned to an experimental procedure. Grayson was the first to undergo this rare, complex brain surgery in the United States as part of an FDA clinical trial.

A tiny microchip was inserted directly on the brain’s sound processing center right on the brainstem during the procedure.

The chip is able to stimulate hearing because it bypasses the ears and goes straight to the brain. After an eight hour operation, Grayson spent one month in the hospital.

“I’ve never seen a look like that today, said Grayson’s father, Len Clamp, talking about the day that the implant was turned on for the first time.

“I mean, he looked deep into my eyes. He was hearing my voice for the first time. It was phenomenal,” he added. “He likes sound. He enjoys the stimulus, the input. He’s curious and he definitely enjoys it,” said Grayson’s mom, Nicole Clamp.

The procedure was performed by Craig Buchman, MD, Professor Otolaryngology/Head and Neck Surgery, and Matthew Ewend, MD, Chair, Department of Neurosurgery.

Dr. Buchman said:

“Seeing him respond, that had a lot of feelings for me. I felt like there was a potential that we were effectively changing the world in some ways.”

The device given to Grayson was originally used for deaf patients who had auditory nerve tumors, which have an effect on hearing.

The device is now being looked at by experts to help repair hearing problems in kids.

Written by Sarah Glynn