Turning vibrations to sound

Jaci Curry

The audiologist’s office grew quiet with a sort of controlled excitement while Jaci Curry waited for the big moment. “You should be able to hear your mom when she talks very, very quiet,” said Casey Rutledge, audiologist, University of Louisville Physicians.

It was finally happening — the first time in Kentucky a child had received a bone conduction hearing device and was about to have it turned on.

The new device had been implanted inside Jaci’s head in a procedure at Kosair Children’s Hospital several weeks prior. Now, with the click of a computer button, it was turned on.

“Can you hear me?” whispered Amanda Curry, Jaci’s mother.

The 8-year-old beamed and tension in the room evaporated. Soon, doctor and patient were high-fiving.

“When you’re in school you’ll be able to hear all your friends talk on that side!” Amanda said.

“That side” refers to Jaci’s right side, the side she could no longer hear out of after a bout with meningitis when she was just 4 months old. Although Jaci could still hear out of her left ear, the unbalance made it difficult to hear in certain situations.

“A lot of times in loud settings, such as restaurants, she would stay rather frustrated,” Amanda said. “Her biggest issue is in the morning in her school’s gym when they have the entire school in there for announcements. I’m very excited for the opportunities for her, being able to hear more, being able to focus more.”

During the hour-long surgery, the hearing device, called an Alpha 2 by Sophono, was implanted under the skin and onto the bone, according to Arun K. Gadre, M.D., director of Otology, Neurotology and Skull Base Surgery, University of Louisville Physicians and Kosair Children’s Hospital. The implant is designed for patients age 5 and older.

After the surgical site heals, which takes up to a month, the patient is fitted with a sound processor, which is placed behind the ear using a magnet, making it removable. On Sept. 9, the day Jaci’s implant was turned on, she learned how to put the sound processor on, take it off and replace its battery.

“I think she is going to love it,” Dr. Rutledge said. “It’s going to be different, but in a great way.”

Watch a video of the moment when Jaci’s hearing device was turned on at KosairChildrensHospital.com/hearing.

–Stephanie Doyle

Hearing conditions can be treated when caught early — ideally by the time a baby is 3 months old. It’s important to get your child’s hearing screened early and evaluated regularly. To learn more, visit KosairChildrensHospital.com/hearing.