Nonprofit will replace 4-year-old’s stolen ear implant parts

The mother of a 4-year-old deaf, autistic boy has received good news about the stolen parts for an ear implant device that helps her son hear, even though the parts have not been returned.

Offers of financial support from the public and a warranty on one expensive part make it likely that Laura Coate won’t have to shoulder the financial burden of replacing the items.

“That’s a big sense of relief,” said Coate, who lives with her son Sora at Pence Place apartments in Columbus.

She went to her car on the morning of May 18 to retrieve a backpack that contained important parts for a cochlear implant for Sora. The boy had recently received the implant for his left ear.

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When she arrived at the vehicle, she noticed that the rear passenger window was smashed in and the car ransacked. Among the missing items was the backpack, which contained parts such as a waterproof processor, batteries, a charger, a remote for the volume and a drying kit.

Coate said she is touched that people have reached out to help because the theft was devastating and left her feeling defeated.

She has been working with Hear Indiana, a nonprofit organization that provides resources to families of children who are deaf or hard of hearing, to determine what help is possible from the company that made the ear implant.

The waterproof processor, which costs about $8,000, allows Sora to hear while he is swimming. It is covered under a one-time replacement warranty and could be replaced that way if Coate chooses, said Naomi Horton, executive director of Hear Indiana.

However, the other parts that were stolen are not covered by a replacement warranty, Horton added. Hear Indiana is working with Advanced Bionics to determine the cost to replace the parts, she added, but the amount could be about $1,000.

That’s where help from the public would be beneficial, Coate, a single mother, said. The parts not covered under warranty support the use of the cochlear implant, and are ones that will have to be replaced over time, she added.

In the meantime, Coate is making do to ensure Sora, who also has a cochlear implant in his right ear, can hear from both ears.

She has non-waterproof processors for both ears, but has to use batteries and the charger for the right ear to make the left ear implant functional. That improvising has limits, Coate said.

“He can wear them for about half the day, the other half the day the batteries are dead and he doesn’t get to wear them in either ear,” she said.

“It’s definitely not great,” Horton said of Coate’s situation. “It’s been a little more challenging for her.”

Those who wish to assist Coate with the replacement parts can do so through Hear Indiana, Horton said, either by contacting her or making an online donation.

How to help

Anyone wishing to financially assist Laura Coate with obtaining replacement parts for her son’s cochlear implant can do so by:

Calling Naomi Horton, executive director of Hear Indiana, at 317-828-0211, or sending her an email at naomi.horton@hearindiana.org.

Making an online donation through Hear Indiana’s website, hearindiana.org. Donors are asked to note that the money is to be used for the replacement parts for Sora Coate’s implant.

Have a tip

Anyone with a tip about the theft of the stolen cochlear implant parts can call Columbus Police Department at 812-376-2600. Tips may be left anonymously.

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Kirk Johannesen is assistant managing editor of The Republic. He can be reached at johannesen@therepublic.com or (812) 379-5639.