By Farrah Fazal
ST. LOUIS (KSDK) -
The expert small, thin fingers on black and white keys look like they've always been there.
You'd never know, but the 10 year old girl behind the piano learned to play just the day before. Jia Billadeau couldn't even hear the music when she was born.
"She has no cochlea on one side at all and she has a malformed cochlea on the right side," her mother Carol said.
Carol and Jim adopted Jia from an orphanage in China. She was deaf.
"She wasn't three yet and that's when she heard her first sounds," Carol said.
The sounds of silence were broken by a cochlear implant.
"She had great hearing for a while and then totally lost it," Jim said.
One of Jia's surgeons who tried to help her in her journey to hear told the Billadeaus about a new device and procedure called Auditory Brain Stem Implant.
The Billadeaus flew to New York in June to get Jia the ABI. The auditory brain stem implant is surgically implanted electronic device that provides a sense of sound to a person who is profoundly deaf. It uses similar technology as the cochlear implant but the electrical stimulation is used to stimulate the brain stem instead of the cochlea.
Jia can now hear some things. She recognizes about 25 words. She can hear the music. She's the only child in the country who could speak before she got the transplant. Two other children who didn't have language skills yet also got the device.
The FDA approved ABI in January of 2013. Jia's parents believe the device will help many other children just like Jia. Their daughter added two more songs to her reportoire since she learned to play the piano 24 hours ago. She's finding the magic in the space between the notes.