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Cochlear Implants Change Lives of Two Teenagers

Destinee Brady and Michael Hill, two high school students, recently received cochlear implants at the University of Chicago Medical Center. The two teenagers, who both suffer from hearing loss, have worn hearing aids since childhood.

According to the article, written by Mike DeDoncker of Rockford Register Star, "A cochlear implant is an electronic device that is surgically implanted in the bone behind the ear to help overcome hearing problems caused by the loss of or damage to hair cells in the inner ear — the cochlea — that transmit sound to the auditory nerve... With the implant, [sound] is picked up by a microphone and travels to an external mini computer called a sound processor. The sound is converted into digital information and sent over a transmitter antenna to the surgically implanted part of the system, which turns the sound information into electrical signals that travel into an electrode array in the cochlea."

Cochlear implants are becoming more common, especially amongst teenagers. The implant comes equipped with a microphone that rests behind the ear, as well as an accompanying external mini-computer that attaches to the head. Self-conscious teens need not worry, however, as the implant accessories are surprisingly inconspicuous. With the implant, Destinee and Michael have been able to experience sounds that they could never hear before. Tanya Swanson, Destinee's mother, explained how emotional it has been to see the change in her daughter. “I wanted to cry the morning she had walked to the bus stop, shortly after she got the cochlear, and texted back that she had heard something and realized that it was the first time she had heard birds chirping.”

For these two teenagers, adjusting to the cochlear implant has taken time and effort, as the process involves the stimulation of the hearing nerve, and retrains the brain how to process auditory input. Julie Hill, Michael Hill's mother, explains, " We were amazed at how much he can hear, but now it’s training him how to understand it.” Just like learning to read and write, the process is laborious. To ease the transition process, Destinee and Michael are also receiving speech and "listening" training.

This article is posted in its entirety at Rockford Register Star.

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