November 24, 2013 – The National Institute of Health awarded the House Research Institute and Children's Hospital in Los Angeles a five-year study grant aimed at restoring hearing in deaf children. More than one thousand people have received the first successful prosthetic hearing device that stimulates neurons at the human brainstem, bypassing the inner ear and hearing nerve entirely.
"We are extremely excited to bring this revolutionary technology to Children's Hospital and we are especially looking forward to offering this innovative procedure to provide sound to deaf children in the United States," said Mark Krieger, Paediatric Surgeon at the Children's Hospital in Los Angeles.
In 2008, Nathan Goss received a brain stem implant in Italy and now at the age of seven he is hearing and speaking well enough to be in a mainstream second-grade classroom.
Grayson Clamp (pictured right) was born without cochlear and auditory nerves that carry sound signals from the cochlea in the inner ear to the brain. His parents provided him with a cochlear implant but it did not work so they enrolled Grayson in a research trial at University of North Carolina Hospitals in Chapel Hill, N.C. where he became the first child in the U.S. to receive an auditory brain stem implant.
The auditory implant procedure involves placing a microchip on the brain stem to bypass the cochlear nerves altogether. The microchip serves as a decoder to a tiny microphone placed near the ear. The degree and quality of hearing varies from patient to patient as it takes time for the brain to adjust and interpret these new sounds.
When Grayson heard his father calling him for the first time, his face lit up with surprise. He still requires frequent checkups to fine tune the device in order to give him the best hearing possible.
Children considered for the trial must have congenital bilateral deafness resulting from a malformed or non-existent cochlea or hearing nerve and cannot be receiving hearing benefits from a hearing aid or cochlear implant. Children with cochlear implants that have not provided a benefit are also suitable candidates for the study. Ten children in the United States will have their surgical and audiological care provided by the trial grant. The Food and Drug Administration will monitor the clinical trial of the auditory brainstem implant.