When Beth Tournis, an audiologist in the Cochlear Implant Program at Lurie Children’s, recently asked a patient how his cochlear implant system was working, the boy cheerfully replied, “Fine.” Born with hearing loss in both ears, he had undergone implantation surgery at the hospital on his right ear at age 5 and on his left ear at 13.
Using a technology called datalogging, Beth downloaded directly from the processors he wears behind each ear to her computer a detailed record of her patient’s usage, and a different picture emerged. The small magnetic coil on the left side of his head, which transfers digital information from the processor to the implant, was frequently slipping out of position, affecting his ability to hear.
“This poor kid had been walking around having to reposition the coil an average of 120 times a day, but never told anyone,” says Beth.
She was able to strengthen the magnets for both transmitter coils, which drastically reduced the number of daily “coil-offs.”
“Before this technology became available in 2014, we might never have known he was having a problem,” says Beth, who presented a study on the effectiveness of datalogging at an international conference in France last year.
Datalogging offers many benefits for cochlear implant patients at Lurie Children’s, which has one of the largest pediatric programs of its type in the United States and was among the institutions consulted during the new technology’s development. The Cochlear Implant Program is led by founder and medical director Nancy M. Young, MD, the Lillian S. Wells Chair in Pediatric Otolaryngology, who has performed more than 1,400 implant surgeries.
“Sometimes a patient may turn his or her implant off at school and then turn it back on at home,” says audiologist Denise Thomas, Clinical Coordinator of the Cochlear Implant Program. “Mom and Dad may be none-the-wiser, but we can tell. It has really helped us in having conversations with families about their child’s progress.”
Lurie Children’s Cochlear Implant Program is supported, in part, by the Foundation for Hearing and Speech Rehabilitation. Visit fhsr.org.
This article was originally published in the Spring 2016 issue of Heroes magazine.