Deaf father, toddler hear each other for the first time

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Randy Adams and his son, 16-month-old Max, have the same hair, the same eyes and the same hearing impairment.

When the 35-year old Canton construction worker met his wife Michelle at a party four years ago, he typed out messages on his Phone to introduce himself.  

The son of two deaf parents, Randy had been born profoundly deaf.

Randy and Michelle didn't realize their son would be born with the same genetic inner ear defect as his dad.

"I was very upset at first, and I know it sounds weird because I'm fine with Randy being deaf," says Michelle Adams. "But, it just made me really sad because I thought of all the things he wouldn't experience."

When double hearing aids didn't help, Michelle began researching a cochlear implant for Max, which caught Randy off guard.

"He got very upset," she remembers. "He said he likes him the way he is, he doesn't want to change him. And why don't  I like him the way he is?"

Michelle says it took time to agree on what to do, if anything.

"It really took a lot of time," she says.  "He did his research as well. And we'd talk about it all the time."

With Randy's reluctant blessing, Max underwent cochlear implant surgery in October of 2016 at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta.

The change, Michelle Adams says, was striking.   

"And before that he'd not been responsive at all," she says. "It was just like he was bored all the time. He was a different baby when he could hear."

Randy noticed it, too.

"He saw how happy Max would get," Michelle Adams says. "He literally would start laughing and giggling and just getting so excited whenever we'd put it on him and say, 'Hi Max!' And he'd just start going crazy."

The change in the now 16-month-old was so profound, that on March 1, Randy underwent the very same surgery. Nearly a month later, the couple went back to Emory University Midtown Hospital, to have Randy's cochlear implant activated.  

Through a sign language interpreter, doctor of audiology Jenna Frasso, explains the process.

"I'm going to put the magnet on and it's going to test the implant." Frasso tells Randy.

She plays a series of beats, asking Randy if he can feel a vibration or sound. He nods, but says it's like "a tense feeling" on the side of his head.

Then, for the first time, Randy hears Michelle's voice, and she begins to weep.

It's a powerful moment. Max, sleepy because his is missing his afternoon nap, is quiet.  

Randy will have to wait to hear his son speak.

Both father and son will continue to work with an audiologist, who will fine tune the implant. The learning curve for Randy, hearing for the first time in 35 years, may be steep.

"In the beginning, it's almost like you're hearing a different language. It's a different way for the brain to hear," says Frasso.

Frasso says it takes at least 6 months, maybe a year, for Randy to receive the full benefit of his cochlear implant.

Two weeks later back home in Canton,  Randy, signing, with Michelle interpreting for him, says "It's going good."  

Randy feels like a door is opening, for him and for Max.

"I want to hear many things," he signs. "Learn different languages, talk more with people."

And Randy Adams can't wait for a follow-up story in a year, to show how far he and Max have come, together.