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New Hope For The Deaf

For many people born deaf, life without sound is a part of their existence that they accept. But for those who lose their hearing later in life, the adjustment can be difficult. We met one woman who has decided to use the latest technology to hear again, CBS This Morning Health Contributor Dr. Dave Hnida reports.

"Abigail" on the CBS soap opera Guiding Light has just had surgery that will allow her to hear.

It is a case of art imitating life, because the actress who plays "Abigail," Amy Ecklund, is also deaf, and she, too, can now hear thanks to an implant.

The experience has been so positive for Amy that she and the writers of Guiding Light wanted to share it with the public, so they wrote it into her character's story line.

"I just got to the point that my loss was frustrating enough," Ecklund says.

Earlier this year, Amy took advantage of the latest technology and had a device, called the Nucleus 24 Cochlear implant, inserted in her inner ear.

"It was kind of like going sky diving," she explains. "I thought, 'what do I have to lose?'"

Nucleus 24 Cochlear . (CBS)
Pat Shoot, director of the cochlear implant center at Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan where Amy had her surgery, says, "One of the main things about the device is that it has been miniaturized down to a unit that fits behind the ear. The previous devices came with body packs that looked like the size of a Walkman."

The device consists of a receiver and electrodes that are surgically implanted in the inner ear to substitute for damaged nerve endings. A speech processor and microphone sit hidden behind the ear, translating the signals into sound.

"It's changed my whole place in the universe and how I relate to other people," Ecklund says. "I can use the phone, I'm going to the movies."

"I do want to share the experience with people so that they know it's out there if they want the option," she continues.

Amy is doing great and especially loves listening to music. As for her character, "Abigail," you'll have to stay tuned next week as she recovers from surgery.

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