This article originally appeared in Star Chronicle, a newsletter
published for the Children's Medical Center.
Caitlin Deneen was born a healthy baby girl. However, her parents questioned
her hearing when at 18 months her speech was not developing. She began speech
and language therapy, but continued concern prompted a hearing evaluation,
called a sedated ABR test. This specialized exam revealed what her parents had
feared - Caitlin was profoundly deaf in both ears.
Knowing that the early years of infancy are crucial to the development of
speech and language, the Deneens searched for an answer and found it at the
UMass Memorial Cochlear Implant Program. After careful review of Caitlin's case
by the cochlear implant board, she was approved for implantation.
Cochlear implants are designed to bring sound and speech information to
patients who have severe to profound hearing loss in both ears and who do not
benefit from conventional hearing aids. Children between the ages of 9 months
and 17 years are candidates for implantation.
Before implantation, a pediatric candidate undergoes a comprehensive
evaluation by the program team. This includes specialized hearing testing, CT
scans of the temporal bones, genetic testing, ophthalmologic, psychological and
medical evaluations, and counseling."
To get the most benefit from a cochlear implant, a pediatric patient needs a
strong support system, along with audiologic, speech and language services, and
an appropriate educational environment that emphasizes oral language skills. For
those who enter the public school system, we look to see a greater awareness and
emphasis on oral/auditory education teaching for hearing impaired students.
If a deaf infant undergoes cochlear implantation and receives the proper
speech, hearing and family support following surgery, there is greater than an
80 percent chance that the child can be mainstreamed into a regular classroom
setting, with the potential to develop normal oral speech and language skills.
The UMass Memorial team has safely performed implants on the youngest (eight
to nine month olds) deaf patients in New England.
Caitlin is one of many success stories. She recovered quickly from her
surgery, a two-hour outpatient procedure, and later, when the device was
activated, she experienced sound for the first time in her life. Now every day
is a new adventure as Caitlin discovers the world of sound. And to her parents'
delight, she responds to her name - the start of new life in a hearing world.