Sunday, January 24, 2010

Deaf infants getting cochlear implants younger than ever

Deaf infants getting cochlear implants younger than ever

DALLAS - Surgically implanted electronic devices called cochlear implants help some 200,000 people hear every year.

The Food and Drug Administration has approved the implants for children as young as 12 months old. However, some doctors are now going outside FDA recommendations, saying earlier can be even better. Doctors are also implanting cochlear implants in both ears at the same instead of doing them one at a time.

"Then the brain is better able to learn to use both ears together for added benefits such as sound localization, better hearing and background noise, things of that nature." said Dr. Bob Peters, an otolaryngologist at Forest Park Medical Center in Dallas.

While implanting a nine-month old with cochlear implants is still rare in the United States, in Europe infants as young as six months old have received the implants. That knowledge helped Kemper and Helen Johnson decide to get bilateral cochlear implants for their profoundly deaf son, who is just nine months old.

"I'm sure he could live a happy life as a deaf person," Mr. Johnson said. "But, any advantage we can give him to hear and to go to normal schools, we wanted to take that opportunity.

Kemper Johnson Jr. was the youngest child to be implanted with a cochlear implant at Forest Park Medical Center.

His parents hope their son will grow up never knowing anything except the gifts of sound.

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