The von Mosch family is no stranger to the backpack-like device strapped onto 9-month-old daughter Ella’s back. In fact, even Ella is already accustomed to the Velcro straps and the two hearing devices that are now her constant companions. On August 17, 2006, Ella underwent cochlear implant surgery to restore the hearing she lost shortly after birth, just as her older brother did nearly a year ago (the cause of the siblings’ hearing loss has not been identified).

Ella has marked two other important milestones as well, not only receiving Midwest Ear Institute’s 600th cochlear implant surgery, but also being the youngest patient to ever have the surgery at Kansas City, Mo, facility—and the youngest to receive bilateral cochlear implants.

“It took us 25 years to hit the 500th cochlear implant mark, but only 16 months to reach 600 implants,” says Lisa Buckler, audiologist and Midwest Ear Institute clinical director. “Younger children are now candidates, opening the door for more people to access the technology.”

“Ella was implanted with a multi-channel electrode array, with each electrode responsible for a different pitch range,” she says. “She’ll be able to hear well enough to develop speech just as any other toddler would.”

Ella underwent the initial stimulation or “turning on” of the implant August 28, at which time Buckler tested and adjusted the electrodes’ function and allowed Ella to hear again. Ella’s parents, neither of whom have hearing loss themselves, are thrilled with the results of their son’s surgery—he began speaking just 8 months after he received the implants—and look forward to the strides Ella will make.

“Now, 10 months after our son was implanted and not even a month after our daughter was implanted it’s like our family leads a different life,” says Doug van Mosch. “The fear that we had before is gone and instead of the constant reminders that our kids are deaf, we find ourselves forgetting that they are. It’s like night and day.”

[SOURCE: Midwest Ear Institute, September 13, 2006]