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Ausanio Worries About Son

February 29, 1996

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. (AP) _ A father’s determination and a computer may break a 4-year-old boy’s world of silence.

Joey Ausanio, the son of New York Mets pitcher Joe Ausanio, had devices implanted in his ears on Thursday that are expected to allow him to hear. He underwent surgery at Manhattan Eye, Ear, Nose and Throat Hospital in New York, and the implants will be activated in a month after the ears have healed.

``We couldn’t not do the operation for him,″ Joe Ausanio said. ``I told my wife (Tammy) it’s not a deaf world we live in and he already feels different from other people.″

Ausanio’s son suffered from bacterial meningitis as an infant, and the disease caused the boy to be deaf.

``That crushed me more than that he almost died, because he’s in a world of silence,″ Ausanio said.

The implants were hooked up to Joey’s inner ear, and a Clarion implant will be magnetically attached to a harness that he must wear. Sound is picked up by the implants and transmitted to the Clarion device, which is about the size of a Walkman, and is interpreted by a computer.

``He’s one of the first 100 or so kids to wear it,″ Ausanio said. ``For adults who have had it done, it’s like someone talking and hearing a computerized voice.″

Ausanio, a non-roster invitee, found out about the procedure when he was with the Yankees, and an ear specialist sent him a package with information on the new technology.

Joey has learned sign language from his parents, but has never heard a human voice and can’t talk. The Ausanios were able to sign to him information about the operation.

``He knows about the operation and what’s going on. He’s so excited because he’ll be able to hear like his little brother Kevin,″ Ausanio said. ``I saw the movie ``Mr. Holland’s Opus’ and for me it had a lot of meaning because the mother couldn’t talk to her son.″

Joey will start kindergarten this year, and the devices will allow him to be sent into regular classes. The boy will have to wear the harness and he’ll have an interpreter until he can understand the computer voice.

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