ADDISON — Without a single word, five-year-old Jiya Bavish of Frisco communicates pretty well. She is very interested in the world around her.
Born deaf for unknown reasons, Jiya's parents wanted her to have the gift of speech.
When she was 10 months old, Jiva received cochlear implants. They allowed her to hear sound for the first time, but not enough to develop speech.
After years of therapy, Jiya still can't utter a single word.
"It became obvious that she wasn't going to hear enough in order to learn how to speak, and further investigation showed she has a condition called cochlear nerve deficiency," explained Linda Daniel, an auditory verbal therapist and owner of HEAR In Dallas Inc.
She has worked with children and adults with cochlear implants for 20 years. She is excited that Jiya will become the first child in Texas — and one of only a handful nationwide — to have an experimental brain surgery aimed at helping her hear.
Next month, doctors at the University of North Carolina will embed an auditory brainstem implant, or ABI, directly into Jiya's brain.
The ABI uses technology similar to a cochlear implant, but instead of electrical stimulation of the cochlea, electrodes are placed directly on the brainstem.
“It is actually inserted into the brainstem, where the auditory nerve should connect to the brain," Daniel said. "But because she doesn't have auditory nerves, we're going right to the part of the brain where one of the first brain centers of hearing is."
In the United States, ABIs were only approved for adults over age 18 due to the risky nature of the surgery and limited effectiveness.
Recipients, for example, might develop speech, but would still need to utilize lip-reading. A phone conversation might not be possible. Recipients might also be able to detect the beat from a song, but not be able to make out the words.
In January 2013, the FDA approved an ABI clinical trial for a limited number of children. Jiya’s surgery at UNC will be performed under a strict protocol.
Linda Daniel said this is Jiya’s only chance to hear short of another medical breakthrough.
“She’s going to need many years of therapy, but this is exciting,” said Daniel, who will be Jiya's therapist.
"We have to trust in God and we just hope for the best, so we are going for it,” said Jatin Bavis, Jiya’s father.
He said he and his wife dream of the day their little girl speaks her first word.
Any word will do.