Sarah Grace Davis, of Forsyth County, Ga., is among the estimated 70 percent of children diagnosed with Down syndrome who can’t hear. But tiny hearing aids may change that for the 3-year-old, Fox 5 Atlanta reported.
"She has never passed a hearing test— ever,” Ashley Davis, her mom, told the news station. “She failed her newborn screening."
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), developmental symptoms of Down syndrome include poor judgment, impulsive behavior, a short attention span, and delayed language and speech development. The genetic disorder is often caused by a third copy of chromosome 21 due to abnormal cell division when the egg and sperm meet.
“Kids with Down syndrome are already at a disadvantage, as far as speech is concerned,” Ashley told Fox 5 Atlanta. “They already have speech delays— so to add hearing loss to that, the odds are stacked against her."
Tonya Nussbaum, an audiologist at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, said Sarah Grace has conductive hearing loss stemming from structural problems with her ear.
"The hearing nerve is working fine,” Nussbaum told the news station. “The sound just can't get through there because of infections and fluid."
Nussbaum recently fit Sarah Grace with her second pair of ear moldings. The little girl lost one of the first two moldings, as is common among young children the news station reported. The new hearing aid may help the toddler better interact with her peers, like her twin, Hannah.
"Sometimes people with hearing loss just appear quiet or withdrawn,” Nussbaum told Fox 5 Atlanta. “And it's not necessarily that they are quiet; they're just not catching the conversation or different things in the environment. It's difficult to respond to them when they can't hear them."
Two months into Sarah Grace using the new hearing aids, Harmon Davis, Sarah Grace’s dad, has already noticed a change.
“We get to see her respond a lot more, she's hearing a lot more words,” Harmon told the news station, “which is great because our biggest problem is communication with her."
Nussbaum told Fox 5 Atlanta that seeing those improvements is the best part of her day.
“Absolutely the highlight,” she said.