10-year-old Vancouver girl receives top honors for cochlear implant idea

Kenzi Cayton may be little but she's full of big ideas.
Published: Aug. 23, 2022 at 6:51 AM PDT
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VANCOUVER, Wash. (KPTV) - A girl in Vancouver has received top honors for her idea on how to improve her cochlear implants.

Kenzi Cayton may be little but she’s full of big ideas. The 10-year-old was born deaf and has worn cochlear implants since she was a toddler, taking them with her for everything from Trail Blazers games to hunting with dad.

Kenzi often changes the look - or skin - on her implants using stickers.

“Right now, but that would require putting sticker on, taking it off each time, and they’re not reusable,” said Kelli Cayton, Kenzi’s mom.

Kenzi and her mom say it can be quite a task and wasteful. So she had a thought to make it easier.

“My invention is to have a cochlear implant that has the ability to automatically change skins to anything I want just by clicking a button on an app,” Kenzi said in a video submitted for a international contest.

The international contest was on how to improve the lives of deaf people called Ideas4Ears. Of the 350 entries in the United States, Kenzi won first place.

“I thought it would make the implants more fun and creative, and people could be more proud of them,” she said.

Her winning idea for an app landed her a trip to Austria to meet other deaf kids around the world, hear their winning ideas and pitch her own idea to the manufacturer of her hearing device.

“I feel really excited,” said Kenzi. “I think it would be fun to meet kids from different countries that are deaf like me.”

Kelli says beyond the winning trip, the competition has also given Kenzi something else.

“I’m just super proud of her. I thought this would be a great confidence booster for her, sometimes being different can be hard, especially when you’re that age so it was fun to see her excitement and her confidence grow,” Kelli said.

Kenzi won the contest in 2020 but due to the pandemic the international trip was postponed. She’s now finally getting to take the trip with her family this week and will visit the manufacturer of her cochlear implants, where she will also get to pitch her big idea.