Deaf Montreal boy gains hearing after experimental surgery

Auguste Majkowski, 3, was born deaf, but after auditory brain stem implant surgery in California, the Montreal boy is now reacting to some sounds.

Surgical implant in brain stem breaks sound barrier for 3-year-old

Auguste Majkowski, 3, was born deaf but can now hear after undergoing experimental surgery to implant a device into his brain stem 2:19

Auguste Majkowski, 3, was born deaf, but after auditory brain stem implant surgery in California, the Montreal boy is now reacting to some sounds.​

“Sometimes we call his name and he looks up. This is something we've never seen him do before. This is amazing,” said Auguste's mother, Sophie Gareau.

Auguste was born without auditory nerves, meaning sounds can't travel to his brain.

When cochlear implants didn't help, Gareau went looking for other options.

Last year in North Carolina, when Grayson Clamp heard his father's voice for the first time, the three-year-old's reaction captured hearts around the world.

Gareau saw the video on YouTube and wondered if her son could receive the same treatment.

“I ended up talking to the team in California and they said maybe Auguste is a perfect candidate,” said Gareau.

Then came months of meetings, tests and trips to Los Angeles.

Finally in May, Auguste underwent surgery to receive an auditory implant.

Doctors installed the electronic device directly on his brain stem so that sound bypasses the inner ear.

Auguste is the first of 10 children who will receive this treatment, funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

"This is a first step in offering a technology to children that have been unable to benefit from prosthetic devices,” said Dr. Laurie Eisenberg, professor of otolaryngology, University of Southern California.

The procedure is controversial, because it's seen by some in the deaf community as an insult to those who learn sign language.

It also comes with risks.

“It's the brain. If they hit the wrong spot, [there] could be paralysis,” said Gareau.

For Auguste, the only visible sign he underwent the surgery is a processor that he wears with a microphone and a transmitter that allows him to respond to signals he would never have been able to detect before.

Auguste's parents said they've been so pleased with the results, they want to help make the surgery available in Canada.