3 Year Old Born Deaf Can Detect Sounds After New Surgical Procedure


By Victor Ochieng

In what could turn out to be a medical breakthrough, researchers are testing a device that could make it possible for kids with no hearing nerves to develop their hearing abilities. It involves implanting the device on the brainstem to overpass the wiring that connects the ear to the brain.

The research is being spearheaded by the University of South Carolina. Researchers are currently testing the device, known as an Auditory Brainstem Implant (ABI), on a few kids to establish how effective it is.

ABI will go a distant never reached before. It goes beyond cochlear implants, since it’s meant for patients with no functional hearing nerves, something cochlear can’t achieve. The device targets the brain parts that are normally stimulated by hearing nerves and working towards making them sensitive to sound signals.

One of the children tested,  3-year-old Angelica Lopez, has been undergoing experiments with promising results. She lacked auditory nerves at birth and wasn’t able to hear anything. Interestingly, with the new surgical procedure, she is already able to detect sounds and mimic them.

When Angelica went through the surgery, she didn’t know the distinction between different sounds. Five months down the line, she’s still struggling to babble sounds.

Angelica’s mother, Julie Lopez, is very happy with the progress so far and hopes that her daughter will finally get to hear properly.

“It’s just so awesome to hear her little voice,” she said.

Audiologist Laurie Eisenberg of USC tells parents that since these are children who have never been able to hear since birth, whenever ABI is performed on them, their hearing will start developing just like in new born babies. Once they fully master sounds, their hearing can only get better.

Even though ABI has already registered some level of success, it should strictly be performed on healthy children and be properly monitored to hedge off any possible errors, since it is a procedure that delves deep into the brain.

“We’re talking about real surgery to go into a deep area of the brain,” said Dr. Marc Schwartz, a neurosurgeon with the House Clinic and Huntington Medical Research Institutes in Los Angeles who is part of the USC study. “This is a precise operation that requires exacting technique.”

Success with the research and tests will mean that children with impaired hearing will be able to hear again, courtesy of ABI.




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