Brain Stem Implant: New way to hear from Greyson

Brain Stem Implant: New way to hear from Greyson

COLUMBIA (WACH) - More than 12,000 babies are born with hearing loss each year in the United States. Current technology now allows the accurate assessments of hearing in children starting within a few hours of birth. In fact, all states have mandates that testing of hearing be done in the newborn prior to discharge from the hospital. Children with undetected hearing loss may not be able to develop normal speech and language or acquire the cognitive abilities, like thinking, knowing, and judging, needed for learning. The early detection of hearing loss allows treatment and rehabilitation of the hearing-impaired child at a very young age. About 50 percent of hearing loss cases are genetic. However, there are a number of risk factors for hearing loss in children, so there are numerous reasons why a childâ??s hearing may need to be screened or tested. Common indications for a hearing evaluation include:

  • Speech delay

  • Poor school performance

  • Infectious diseases that cause hearing loss (like Down syndrome)

  • Frequent or recurrent ear infections

  • Medical treatments that may have hearing loss as a side effect, like some chemotherapy agents

  • Diagnosis of a learning disability or other disorder, like autism

  • Cochlear implants (CI) are highly successful at restoring functional hearing, but Grayson was born without the nerve that carries sound to the brain. The auditory brainstem implant is similar in design and function to a CI, but the electrode is placed on the first auditory relay station in the brainstem, called the cochlear nucleus. The ABI stimulates neurons directly at the brainstem, bypassing the inner ear and hearing nerve entirely. Doctors start by setting frequencies in the implant for up to 20 electrodes. In the United States ABIâ??s were previously only approved for adults with certain conditions. But now the FDA is testing it on children.