Nov 2017 Sickkids

CarterA ‘magical life-changing moment’ is how parents Stephanie Visser and Adam Holland describe the day their son Carter’s cochlear implants were ‘turned on’ for the first time. Carter Holland, now six months old, received bilateral cochlear implants when he was just three months of age, and is believed to be the youngest person in Canada to undergo this procedure to restore hearing in both of his ears.

Twelve days after Carter was born he was rushed to the emergency department at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) with a high fever, which was later diagnosed as meningitis. As part of the provincial Infant Hearing Program, all babies in SickKids’ neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) undergo hearing screening. In the case of meningitis, hearing loss is a known side effect, so early detection is critical, says Vicky Papaioannou, Audiologist and Associate Director of the Cochlear Implant Program at SickKids. Meningitis can cause the hearing organ, the cochlea, to turn to bone (ossify) meaning Carter would not be a candidate for cochlear implants.

“Carter is a great success story and an example of how our hearing loss intervention program is working,” says Papaioannou. Due to the high risk of hearing loss associated with meningitis, in 1997, Papaioannou and the Otolaryngology team developed a protocol to quickly assess the hearing of children with bacterial meningitis at SickKids. This streamlined the process from hearing loss identification to cochlear implant surgery in just six weeks, avoiding the risk of cochlear ossification which prevents implantation of the electrode.   
Before meningitis vaccination in the early 2000s, SickKids performed around five cochlear implant surgeries a year due to meningitis complications, now we see less than one to two cases a year, explains Papaioannou.

“Carter had spent weeks in the NICU, so our main concern was naturally the meningitis and that he would live. When we were first told that he had lost his hearing, we were shocked but it didn’t really sink in. It wasn’t until we were discharged home and trying to play and interact with him did we realise that he seemed very absent and didn’t look at us very much. It hit us then that he couldn’t hear us or the world around him,” says Stephanie.

CarterWith his other health issues stabilised, Carter was discharged from SickKids’ NICU in late May. He went into surgery to receive his cochlear implants in and had them activated or ‘turned on’ a month later. “In a matter of minutes he went from staring blankly, not focusing on anything around him to giggling and responding to our voices. It was amazing, absolutely life-changing. As soon as we got him back home, we noticed him actively engaged, looking at us, reaching for things. It was a complete, night-and-day change.”
At six months old, Carter is doing well and regularly comes to SickKids for physiotherapy and other appointments to ensure he’s meeting all his developmental milestones. He was recently fitted for a special helmet to address a mild case of plagiocephaly (flat head syndrome), that will also accommodate the external speech processor of the cochlear implants.
SickKids Cochlear Implant Program performs about 100 cochlear implantations per year in children of all ages. For most cases of severe to profound hearing loss, either congenital or acquired, it is ideal to do the surgery before speech has developed at around eight months. Due to Carter’s unique case, the team responded more quickly.


Nov 2017 Townsville Bulletin

A unique family has experienced the joy of hearing in a new way, after two of three siblings all suffering from hearing loss had cochlear implants switched on. Siblings Joe, 14, Etty, 10, and James McDonough, 8, all suffer from progressive hearing loss linked to a genetic disorder, and all underwent surgery in March to have their first cochlear implants inserted. After another surgery, Joe and Etty have just had their second cochlear implants turned on for the first time, allowing them to hear out of both ears. Etty and James said going through the process of getting their hearing back had been made easier by doing it together. “The last surgery I had, Joe was with me, and he was just making it a lot more comfortable for me,” she said. “I think it will be a lot easier at school now because I can hear my teacher and all my friends.”
Eight-year-old James said it was emotional seeing his sister cry with happiness when her second implant was switched on. “I was really happy for her,” he said. James still has enough hearing to only require one cochlear implant, but the possibility of requiring a second like his older siblings in the future is high. “I’m a bit nervous, but it’s in a few years’ time,” he said.
The Cairns family have travelled to Hear and Say Townsville almost 20 times in less than two years to give the three children the opportunity to hear like any other kids. Mother Kitty McDonough said while the travel was extensive, she was just thankful the children had the opportunity to hear again.

“You don’t even factor the inconvenience to your life because it’s all about the kids getting what they need to be able to fully function in society the way we all do,” she said.
The family found out two years ago that the three children had progressive hearing loss after one of Etty’s teachers suspected she may need her hearing tested. “It’s been a bit of a whirlwind 20 months, but we’re here now and we’re nearly at the end of this part,” she said. Father Terry McDonough said he was thankful for the knowledge his kids would be able to hear the outside world. “For so long they’ve been without, and to see that today is quite emotional,” he said.

“We’re very grateful to Hear and Say, and for our kids to be able to hear what normal kids hear all the time, it's very special.”

McDonough FamilyTerry, Joe, Etty, Kitty and James McDonough at Hear and Say Townsville.

Hear and Say audiologist Liza Bowen said “The McDonough kids passed newborn screening, they’re the kids that aren’t picked up early because their hearing loss occurred gradually from early childhood,” she said. Ms Bowen said cochlear implants would drastically improve the children’s long-term education and employment prospects, as well as improving their everyday lives and relationships. “At Hear and Say we like to get children optimally aided, or have the best hearing as early as possible, and work intensively with their speech, language and listening skills so they can do just what any other child can do,” she said. Ms Bowen also said the moment a child heard properly for the first time wasn’t just emotional for the family. “Switch-on days make my job, I love them,” she said. “I love being able to help kids and families, by providing sounds kids can reach their full speech and language potential. “And I think Etty’s giggle is adorable.”

Kitty said all the children were doing well academically which disguised the signs that something was wrong with their hearing. “It was a real eye opener for all of us, and a reminder for all families to seek specialist help if they suspect their child may be missing out on critical developmental milestones in particular hearing, listening and speaking,” she said.

All three children are continuing to receive listening and spoken language support from their home in Cairns via Hear and Say’s telepractice program.


Nov 2017 This Week Community News - Liz Thompson

Giving thanks means different things to different people. I’m thankful for each new day as I wake and put my voice processors on and sounds rush in that eluded me for years as I became deaf. Thanks to cochlear-implant technology, I hear and understand speech, along with all the beautiful sounds -- and the annoying ones -- in our world. I put my feet on the floor and push to stand, and I’m thankful my multiple sclerosis didn’t steal that ability as I slept.

The fragrance of coffee greets me as I arrive in the kitchen and see my husband of almost 40 years. Years ago, I broke my ankle and a fellow Battelle secretary sent me a card with this Scripture from Philippians 4:8: ” ... whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable -- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy -- think about such things.”
Negativity abounds, and it can be a challenge to stay positive. The news, in general, seems to focus on crime, politics and disasters without the balance of good news and both sides of the story so we can form our own opinions. Many people selflessly gave of their time to help those affected by the storms and fires this year. These people-helping-people stories are a breath of fresh air.
It would be naive to close our eyes to problems and not watch the news. I do recommend sifting through the blast of media to find the truth, when possible, and not the hype or the short sentences that don’t tell the whole story. Do some research to seek what is true and what is right.” Some of that searching will show stories in our own town. Last year, I wrote about the Stitching Sisters formed in 2004 by nurse practitioner Joanne Lester and 10 oncology patients.

This group of quilters has grown to nearly 400 people working on these blankets in some capacity. They started making quilts for oncology patients at James Care in Dublin. The good news about this group, whose members work year-round, never seems to stop. Lester told me, “We’ve surpassed 17,000 quilts since 2005. We are now providing quilts for nearly all the outpatients receiving chemotherapy at the James Cancer Hospital (at) the Ohio State University.” For each of these cancer patients who snuggle into a quilt during treatment, this group of people works to make each day more bearable. Patients and quilters alike probably were able to think, at least for a moment, about the good things.

Chuck Rees is president of the Gahanna Lions Club. He joined in December 1983 after he had this experience: “I was assigned to take turkey, ham and groceries to a woman who was mother to seven boys. The 4-year-old gave a big hug and said there is a Santa Claus. I started crying and so was everyone else. I asked the mother why it was so cold in the house. She said the electric and gas had been turned off due to nonpayment.” This Lions Club dug deep into their pockets to collect $200 to pay her utilities.

Speaking of cold, it is upon us. The Knitting/Crochet Ministry of St. Matthew the Apostle Catholic Church in Gahanna is making hats, scarves, blankets and more for those in need. This year, the ministry will exceed 15,000 handmade items as it gives to 48 different organisations. Members also made 50 fleece blankets, 100 men’s hat sets and 60 women’s sets for homeless or needy veterans in the Stand Down program. More than 150 people knit and crochet for this ministry, and not just in Ohio.

Efforts such as these are happening all around us. You likely have a story of your own.

We may not see your story on the news, but many people are helping to create a thankful attitude our nation needs.


Oct 2017 New Scientist

Just what you need in the age of ubiquitous surveillance: the latest cochlear implants will allow users stream audio directly from their iPhone into their cochlear nerve. Apple and implant manufacturer Cochlear have made “Made for iPhone” connectivity available for any hearing implants that use the next-generation Nucleus 7 sound processor. The advance means that these implants can also stream music and Netflix shows. The technology was first unveiled in 2014 when it was added to hearing aids such as the Starkey Halo and ReSound LiNX. But this is the first time it’s been linked into the central nervous system.

 BluetoothWhile some cochlear implants already offer Bluetooth connectivity, these often require users to wear extra dongles or other intermediary devices to pick up digital signals, and then rebroadcast them to the hearing aid as radio. This technology simply beams the signal right into the brain.

It’s also a better way to use Bluetooth. Bluetooth headsets have been commonplace since the early 2000s, but the energy-sapping technology has meant they are typically clunky devices with poor battery life.

In 2014, Apple technicians developed a way to stream audio over the low energy Bluetooth format used by wearables such as FitBits. Now, tiny devices like hearing aids – and Apple’s Airpods — can stream audio signals for up to a week on a battery the size of an aspirin.

There is a small cost – the audio signal is highly compressed, and can sound much flatter than sounds from typical Bluetooth headsets. That’s unlikely to be a problem for cochlear implant users, as these devices can only stimulate a limited number of frequencies in the ear anyway — because of this low sound quality, cochlear implants are reserved for those with profound hearing loss.

However, the technology behind the new audio streaming models is likely to be adopted by consumer audio devices. Technology giants are betting heavily on audio interfaces becoming the norm in the future, all the better to further integrate voice-activated assistants such as Siri, OK Google, Cortana and Alexa into our daily routines.

It’s likely that in the future most of us will wear discreet, “transparent” ear buds that allow us to hear the world around us while also allowing us to field calls, texts, emails, and hear updates and directions directly from our phone.