Devices can offer hope to deafened children
For a child with profound hearing loss, early identification
and treatment is incredibly important to language development,
especially during the critical period between birth and 3 years.
One option for families facing profound hearing loss in a child
is cochlear implantation, and Children's Hospital Boston's Cochlear
Implant Program, which has implanted over 200 children, is one
of the largest programs of its type in the country.
implant works by capturing sound from the environment through
an external sound processor, which then translates the sound into
digital information and transmits it to an implant under the scalp.
The implant delivers the information to the brain as electrical
impulses, via an electrode attached to an auditory nerve. A common
misconception is that the cochlear implant functions as a hearing
aid. In fact, the device does not provide ˝normal hearing,ţ but
does allow children to detect and differentiate between sounds.
To fully benefit from surgical implantation, children need to
go through postoperative training, which can take up to several
years depending on how long the child has been deaf, the presence
of ossification in the cochlear, and other medical conditions.
Multiple experts, including a pediatric otolaryngologist, a pediatric
audiologist, a clinical psychologist, and a speech and language
therapist from the hospital's Center
for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children, evaluate each child
referred to the cochlear implantation team at Children's. The
workup may also involve referral to developmental pediatricians,
pediatric neurologists, ophthalmologists and geneticists. A battery
of blood work as well as EKG and neuroradiologic imaging are also
This team approach provides a complete physical, educational
and social assessment of each child's options for communicating
more effectively, and allows Children's specialists to set realistic
expectations for parents who opt for implantation.