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University Gazette

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

The look seen around the world captures hearts

grayson_450An advance in medical technology allowed a 3-year-old boy to hear the sound of his father’s voice for the first time.

But it was the boy’s look of wonder that struck a nerve around the world.

The boy’s name: Grayson Clamp of Charlotte.

The new science: an auditory brain stem implant originally used for patients with deafness caused by auditory nerve tumors, but now being tested to help restore hearing in children like Grayson born without the nerve that carries auditory signals from the cochlea of the inner ear to the brain.

The three words spoken: “Daddy loves you.”

The reaction: a viral storm powerful enough to capture the attention of national and international broadcasts, newspapers and magazines, online news outlets and blogs.

The BBC headline beamed, “US Boy Hears for First Time After Ground-Breaking Implant.”

The headline for CBS News This Morning: “Implant Gives Deaf Child Gift of Sound: How Does it Work?”

Time magazine: “WATCH: Boy Hears His Dad’s Voice For First Time.”

And this headline from USA Today: “Boy Reacts As He Hears for the First Time.”

Clamp’s father, Len, and his wife, Nicole, had been waiting for such a moment ever since they met their son at the hospital as his new foster parents. Len Clamp told Charlotte station WBTV that he and his wife felt an instant bond.

“We got Grayson, took him home from the hospital, and he belonged to us,” Len said. “He was ours, I think from day one.”

The surgery, which was performed by School of Medicine faculty members Craig Buchman, professor of otolaryngology/head and neck surgery, and Matthew Ewend, chair of neurosurgery, is the first of its kind at UNC Hospitals and among the first in the United States as part of an FDA clinical trial.

The two surgeons were the first to see the look portrayed around the world.

“Seeing him respond, that had a lot of feelings for me,” Buchman said. “I felt like there was a potential that we were effectively changing the world in some ways.”

To read the original story from UNC Health Care along with some of the coverage from around the world, see