After living the first year of his life in silence, 1-year-old Tristan Hayes heard his parents’ voice for the first time just weeks after undergoing a unique surgery at St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital in Tampa. Pediatric Otolaryngologist Joshua Mitchell, MD, performed the hospital’s first bilateral cochlear implantation on Tristan, who was born with profound hearing loss.
A cochlear implant is an electronic device that bypasses damaged parts of the inner ear and directly stimulates the auditory nerve. During the three-hour procedure, Dr. Mitchell embedded an internal component under the skin behind Tristan’s ears and placed electrodes inside his inner ears. The external part of the device is held in place by a magnet, and sends signals to the embedded electrodes.
Historically, most cochlear implant procedures are done in only one ear. In Tristan’s case, Dr. Mitchell and audiologist, Chelsea McNee, Au.D., CCC-A, felt that the baby would be a great candidate to receive bilateral implants simultaneously.
“The brain is most receptive to auditory stimulation during the early stages of development,” said Dr. Mitchell. “We are beginning to further realize the benefits of implanting both ears at a young age in children with congenital deafness, as studies suggest they do better in noisy situations and localizing sound.”
During the next several months, Tristan’s parents, audiologist and speech therapist will work together to assess and improve the performance of his cochlear implants. The volume on his implants will increase gradually, allowing him to slowly adjust to the new sounds around him.
“There are no words to describe how I felt when he responded to my voice for the first time,” said Tristan’s mother, Brittany Hayes. “Every day he seems to notice a new sound, and it’s such a blessing to watch him take it all in.”