In this country 9 to 22 out of every 1,000 people have a severe hearing impairment or are deaf. At least half of these people reported their hearing loss after the age of 64, but still many are born into a silent world. To date, hearing is the only one of our senses we can get back after it's lost through cutting edge technology and surgery. and you can get it done right here in Sioux Falls.
14 year old Alex Olsem from Fulda, Minnesota loves America's past time. He loves it even more now that he can hear. He was born profoundly hard of hearing but at the age of 8 he got a cochlear implant and his world changed forever.
Alex says, "Now I can talk on the phone, listen to the radio or if the coach hollers at me I can hear him."
You no longer have to travel long distances to one of to get the latest cutting edge technology for hearing. Midwest Ear, Nose and Throat in Sioux Falls is the only place to get a cochlear implant in the Dakotas. And Dr. Ken Scott is the only fellowship trained otologist to do the highly specialized surgery.
Dr. Scott, FACS says, "They keep improving cochlear implants so it's available for more and more people with less and less hearing loss. The device was once thought of as an aid to lip reading. They were very crude when they first came out in the early 80's. The technology has improved vastly since then. People with cochlear implants can now hear and identify people from different rooms in the house and on the phone."
Dr. Scott says there are two good candidates for cochlear implants. The first are children under the age of five who are born deaf. "The other is an adult or a child who had good hearing learned to speak normally but for some sad reason lost their hearing, due to meningitis for example, that hearing loss can be brought back," Dr. Scott says.
The implant is a highly sophisticated computer that goes into the inner ear. The surgery takes about 2 to 3 hours and they wait a month before turning the device on to allow for healing.
Dr. Scott explains how it works, "This is a model of what goes into the ear. The computer sits up under the skin and this electrode goes in from behind and goes right in to the snail shaped structure called the cochlea and that what brings electrical sound."
Alex wears his transmitter pac on his waste. Another option is wearing a hearing aid looking device. It too has a magnet on it that attaches to the computer under the skin and that's how sound is transmitted from the ear to the brain.
Kathy Olsem, Alex's mom says, "It's absolutely wonderful. When he first got the implant and flushed the toilet he covered his ears. When he got in the car and the radio was on he asked his father and I to turn it down because it was too loud. Of course, he'd never heard those noises before so there is a period of adjustment but it's just been great. He can call me on the phone at work now. He could never do that before. Alex's future is so bright just like any other hearing teenager. His hearing loss no longer holds him back." Kathy recommends the surgery for any child who can't hear.
Dr. Scott will do anywhere from 10 to 20 cochlear implants a year.
If you have questions call 877-AT-AVERA or visit www.averamckennan.org