Pioneering work to improve hearing for children through cochlear implantation has been done at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago (formerly Children's Memorial Hospital) since 1991, when the first child in Chicago underwent this life-changing surgery. In December, the hospital’s cochlear implant program marked another milestone, when Nancy Young, MD, the founder and medical director of the program and an international leader in the field, performed the 2,000th cochlear implant procedure at Lurie Children’s.
The 2,000th implant recipient was a teenager from Chicago with profound hearing loss in one ear and normal hearing in his opposite ear, which is known as single-sided deafness, or SSD.
“Although children with this condition learn to speak, they face constant challenges,” said Dr. Young. “When cochlear implantation technology first emerged, it was used only for children who were deaf in both ears, and otherwise would not have the opportunity to speak. Now we have surpassed that limited use.”
The expanded use of cochlear implantation for children is driven by growing research demonstrating the importance of hearing from two ears. Although children with normal hearing in one ear will learn to speak, they have difficulty in many situations, especially when background noise is present.
“Children with only one hearing ear must concentrate harder to understand what is being said, which is often exhausting,” said Stephen Hoff, MD, implant team surgeon. “They also have difficulty telling where sound is coming from, which can be a safety issue.”
“This milestone of 2,000 cochlear implant surgeries provides an opportunity for us to look back and see how far we have come and to look forward to helping even more children with hearing loss – in one or both ears,” Dr. Young said.
Lurie Children’s program is now one of the largest cochlear implant programs in the world. The multidisciplinary 23-member team consists of audiologists, speech language pathologists, social workers, nurses, an educator and surgeons, all with specialized training and knowledge.
Aaron, the recipient of the 2,000th processor at Lurie Children’s, is a 15-year-old high school sophomore who suddenly lost hearing in his right ear when he was a freshman. Aaron received a MED-EL Synchrony, a device that in July received FDA approval specifically for use in children with hearing loss in only one ear. His mom, Nancy, said her family had no hesitation about pursuing cochlear implant surgery. A middle school teacher, Nancy had a student in her class who received cochlear implants at Lurie Children’s, so she saw firsthand how these devices allow a child to thrive.
“It was an easy decision,” said Nancy, Aaron's mom. “I hope milestones like this one will help spread the word to people facing hearing loss about the benefits and advantages of cochlear implants.”