3-year-old Molly is obsessed with the movie “Frozen.” And like the fearless princess in Disney’s icy animated epic, there’s something very special about Molly. She was born deaf.
“She failed her newborn hearing screening, but the doctors at the hospital where she was born kept saying, ‘Oh, she’ll be fine,’” says Tara Swaminatha, Molly’s mother. “We went from expert to expert, and none of them could tell us definitively if she had hearing loss or not. We got a lot of inconsistent information.”
Tara and her husband, Bob Kaplan, were eventually referred to Diego Preciado, M.D., at Children’s National Hospital. “He looked through all the misinformation we had been given, and his face showed genuine sympathy,” Tara says. “He was the first doctor who understood our desperation and wanted to help.”
After a thorough diagnostic evaluation, Dr. Preciado determined Molly did, in fact, have profound bilateral hearing loss. He expedited her hearing aid trial and cleared her for cochlear implantation just shy of her eight month birthday. Today, after several years of speech-language therapy, Molly is a thoroughly ordinary girl. And that’s what makes her extraordinary. “Most people who meet her have no idea she’s deaf,” Tara says. “She speaks better than some of her peers who have typical hearing.”
Tara says her daughter is showing interest in reading and loves listening to music. One of the most encouraging moments occurred earlier this year.
“She came home from school one day singing a song from the ‘Frozen’ soundtrack,” Tara recalls. “When she was younger, we didn’t know if she’d ever be able to hear, let alone talk. Now she sings all over the house, in the car—everywhere. It’s a beautiful thing to hear.”
Vice Chief, Pediatric Otolaryngology
Director, Pediatric Otolaryngology Fellowship
Co-Director of the Cochlear Implant Program