Feb 2018 UC Health

Dr Ravi Samy successfully implanted a cochlear implant (CI) in the right ear and an auditory brainstem implant (ABI) in the left ear of patient Jessica Toews, making her one of the few patients in the country to have both. The ABI was implanted with the CochlearTM Nucleus® 7, the first made-for-iPhone sound processor approved by the Food and Drug Administration. With the combination of the ABI and the Nucleus 7 Sound Processor, Ms. Toews can stream phone calls, video, music and entertainment.

Auditory brainstem implantMs. Toews’ story began in 2009 with a diagnosis of neurofibromatosis type 2. Doctors removed a tumour on her left ear because it was pressing on her brain stem. They planned to implant an ABI at the same time, but her insurance company denied it at the last minute. The surgery successfully removed the tumour, but she lost hearing in her left ear. Two years later, a tumour on Ms. Toews’ right auditory nerve began to grow. She enrolled in a National Institutes of Health study, and the trial drug shrunk the tumour, but the favourable response ended with the trial. Ms. Toews’ next round of treatment was chemotherapy, which stopped the growth of the tumour, but her hearing worsened.

When Ms. Toews lost hearing in her right ear, Lisa Houston, a University of Cincinnati (UC) Medical Center audiologist, suggested a CI for her right ear and that she see Dr. Samy about the procedure. Dr. Samy, director of the adult cochlear implant program at UC Medical Center and associate professor of otolaryngology at UC College of Medicine, agreed that Ms. Toews was an ideal cochlear implant candidate however recommended that she have radiation prior to surgery. Radiation successfully shrank the tumour, and three months later, in February 2017, Dr. Samy implanted the CI in her right ear. Just several weeks after surgery, Ms. Toews heard her children say “I love you” for the first time. In August 2017 – two months after the Nucleus 7 Sound Processor was approved – Dr. Samy implanted the ABI and the sound processor in the patient’s left ear. When it was activated approximately six weeks later, Ms. Toews heard sounds in her left ear for the first time in eight years. In early October, the Nucleus 7 external sound processor was moved to her right ear because it would be more effective in her better hearing ear.

Dr. Samy described Ms. Toews as an incredible patient, for her profound faith, and for her confidence and determination to overcome the health difficulties she encountered. In discussing ABIs, Dr. Samy says, “the success of the procedure hinges on a surgical team with a unique set of skills and training—one that is found in an academic centre such as UC Medical Centre, where three ABIs have been performed in the past six months. This volume is highly regarded since the procedure is not commonly performed.” Dr. Samy anticipates that the future use of ABIs will also include children.

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