June 7, 2014 – One-year-old Elise Bradshaw is the youngest patient in the United States to receive an auditory brain stem implant (ABI). Born without auditory nerves, she was diagnosed with Charge Syndrome, a rare birth defect.
Last March Elise underwent a right-ear craniotomy and placement of an ABI at the Massachusetts General Hospital. On April 15, the audiology team of surgeons activated the implant for the first time with Elise’s family recording her reactions on video.
While sitting on her mother’s lap, Elise suddenly turned her head when she heard a clicking noise – her first reaction to sound.
The auditory implant procedure involves placing a microchip on the brain stem bypassing the cochlear nerves. 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.
“As she becomes older, and with appropriate audiology and speech therapy support, we hope that she will be able to understand patterns of sounds and ultimately, speech,” said Dr. Daniel Lee, Director of Massachusetts Eye and Ear’s Pediatric Ear, Hearing and Balance Center.
“Her ultimate hearing outcome is not known but she is showing good progress thus far.”
Elise’s parents remain hopeful. She will learn sign language as she grows up and be part of the hearing world and deaf community.
Last year three-year-old Grayson Clamp received a similar implant. His father captured the moment he first heard his father's voice in a video that went viral.
In 2008, Nathan Goss received a brain stem implant in Italy and at the age of seven, he was hearing and speaking well enough to be in a mainstream second-grade classroom.