You would never know that Max Van Dyke, 12, was born profoundly deaf. He speaks perfectly, is mainstreamed in school, and loves to play lacrosse and basketball. When he was just over 6 months old, Max’s ears were both surgically implanted with a cochlear implant, an electronic device, which allowed him to hear, learn to understand speech and speak clearly.
“After the shock of finding out our baby was completely deaf, we were thrilled to learn that Chicago had a top otolaryngology surgeon in the country who specializes in cochlear implantation,” says Max’s mom Kristen. “We saw Dr. Nancy Young and she explained that the sooner Max gets cochlear implants, the better his chances at developing normal speech. And she was right. His success is amazing.”
A recently published study by Drs. Nancy Young, Stephen Hoff and colleagues from Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago presents further evidence that deaf children who receive cochlear implants before 12 months of age learn to more rapidly understand spoken language and are more likely to develop spoken language as their exclusive form of communication. Researchers also showed that implantation surgery and anesthesia were safe in young children, including infants.
Kristen, who is an Executive Director of the Foundation for Hearing and Speech Rehabilitation, is a staunch advocate for cochlear implantation in infancy. “We need public policy that promotes early identification of deaf infants whose hearing can be much improved with cochlear implantation,” she says. “Today, many children don’t receive cochlear implants until they are older, and by that time their speech is impacted.”
Dr. Young couldn’t agree more. “Cochlear implants are remarkable in that they enable children to hear the high pitch consonants such ‘s’. These are the sounds that hearing aids cannot make audible to children,” she says. “It is critical for infants to hear clearly, so that they understand when others speak and therefore are more likely to develop age appropriate spoken language.”
“Every child who is born deaf deserves the opportunity Max had to participate fully in all aspects of life,” says Kristen. “We are so grateful to Lurie Children’s and Dr. Young for offering cochlear implantation to our son and children like him.”