Thursday, June 14, 2007

414: The Not-So-Good-Now Cochlear Implant?

17 months. That's one year, five months. Are people implanting children too fast? That's the opinion of one researcher at the University of Haifa in Israel: that there are children who are currently being implanted too early, before the cilia in their ears have time to develop. These children might have been better served by hearing aids, or by being left alone:
He then found another five children who had been referred to him for pre-operative testing. At the end of his clinical research, he identified a "window of opportunity" of 17 months during which deaf children may begin to hear. "A child whose deafness is caused by a malfunctioning connection between hair cells and the auditory nerve should not have a cochlear implant in the first 17 months. Research shows that at least some of these children undergo the procedure for nothing," Atias explained. He added that some of these children only develop partial hearing, which can be augmented with external hearing aids. He is now researching "temporary deafness" among young children, looking for a way to identify those who will recover.

Cochlear implants are wonderful technology, but they are still new technology. I'm still cautious about them, and for just this reason: the unexpected always happens, especially when messing with that piece of marvellous technology, the human body. I remember when I studied in England and the numbers of Deaf children who became infected with meningitis as a result of the surgery started to trickle out.

I'm not against implants, but I think individuals should be given the opportunity to decide for themselves. I was given the choice by my supportive family at the age of 13. Likewise, we as the Deaf community have a responsibility to make sure we look at this info. What do you think of this article? It creeps me out. Even creepier is the fact that JUST as we find out these implants may not be such a boon after all, up crops the next generation, even better-and suddenly implants look even worse:
If the idea pans out in further animal and human studies, profoundly and severely deaf people would have another option that could allow them to hear low-pitched sounds common in speech, converse in a noisy room, identify high and low voices, and appreciate music - areas where cochlea implants, though a boon, have significant limitations.

"In nearly every measure, these work better than cochlear implants," says U-M researcher John C. Middlebrooks. He led a study requested by the National Institutes of Health to re-evaluate the potential of auditory nerve implants. Middlebrooks is a U-M Medical School professor of otolaryngology and biomedical engineering. He collaborated with Russell L. Snyder of the University of California, San Francisco and Utah State University. The two co-authored an article on the results in the June issue of Journal of the Association for Research in Otolaryngology.

The possible auditory nerve implants likely would be suitable for the same people who are candidates today for cochlear implants: the profoundly deaf, who can't hear at all, and the severely deaf, whose hearing ability is greatly reduced.

Or, if you want to read it the way my brain read it, the first time:
The possible auditory nerve implants likely would be suitable for the same people who are candidates today for cochlear implants: the people whose ability to stand up for themselves is greatly reduced.

Which is why language is so important. Without language, how can you stand up for yourself?

Wondering what the future holds - RAINMOUND

1 comment:

rayni said...

This leads me to thinking about why implant technology is even being considered in this day and age?

Why not laser cilia rejuvenation? or other types of more "natural means" of being able to hear?

Like perhaps, stem cells?

I am only saying that if you are going to put technology in your head only to find out 18 months later that your equipment is dated, I would not want to spend money on that. Coupled with the fact that ALOT of insurance companies don't pay for them and even if they do, they don't pay for the years of therapy you need afterwards anyway.

And did I mention how weird having a magnet attached to your head looks?

7 yr old girl died a few months ago in Omaha because she got meningitis from the surgery. Apparently every time her mom took her to get the vaccine either they didn't have it on hand or the mother didn't press for it. Either way the girl is dead and her mother is left to ponder the endless alternatives to this...