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*EDIT* – *This was an April Fools Day post* An Unborn Deaf Child Receives a Cochlear Implant in the Uterus

April 1st, 2014 by | | Comments Off

Check out this very exciting article about a deaf baby being able to hear before he is born.

LOS ANGELES, California (AP) – Expecting parents find out that their unborn child is going to be born with a disability. An amniocentesis was done to screen the genes of the unborn child.  The parents have to face in making important decisions for the unborn child.

Joanne and Matthew Johnson from Los Angeles, California are expecting their second child in May.  They have a five year old son, Blake Johnson, who was born profoundly deaf due to Connexin 26, a recessive genetic mutation.  Because Blake Johnson’s deafness was not diagnosed until two years old and he did not receive a cochlear implant until two years and five months, Johnson missed most of the critical years for developing listening and spoken language, which means that he will be in therapy learning to hear and speak until likely around age 10 years old.  Cochlear implant is a surgically implanted device that allows people with severe-to-profound deafness hear.

While newborn hearing screening is mandated in  the United States, Blake Johnson passed the newborn hearing screening when he was less than 24 hours old.  The parents were sent home from the hospital right after Blake Johnson was born believing that he could hear normally.  “I am so angry that the newborn hearing screening didn’t work properly and I was given false information,” said Joanne Johnson, “If I had known sooner that he is deaf, I would have gotten the cochlear implant for Blake much sooner so that he would not have to endure so many years of hard work in therapy and catching up the language.”

Because the Johnson wanted to have more children and understood that they have a 25% chance of having another deaf child, they decided to do an amniocentesis so that they could find out if their unborn child will be deaf.  “If the child will be deaf, I want the child to receive cochlear implants and be hearing much sooner so that he will have a much easier time in learning to hear and speak than Blake had,” said Matthew Johnson.

Early cochlear implantation is extremely crucial for learning listening and spoken language.  According to Betsy Katz, a speech language pathologist and certified Auditory-Verbal Therapist at University of California Hospital, children who receive cochlear implants prior to 12 months old, develop language that are on par with or better than their hearing peers by three years old.  ” The language growth during the first three years of life is exponential, not linear,” said Katz, “The later the child who is born profoundly deaf, receives a cochlear implant, the greater time the child will need to spend in therapy to catch up in their language development.”

After doing the amniocentesis, the Johnsons learned one week later that their unborn child carries both copies of Connexin 26, which means he will be born profoundly deaf.  They immediately consulted Dr. Alfred Douglas, a cochlear implant surgeon at University of California Hospital, who did Blake’s cochlear implant surgery, about how soon they could implant their second child.  While the FDA guidelines state that children should not be implanted younger than 12 months, a number of surgeons in the United States have been regularly implanting children as young as six months old in the past several years.  The Johnsons were hoping that their second child could be implanted as young as 4 months old.  Dr. Douglas said to them, “How do you feel about implanting the child in the uterus now so that he can start hearing now?  Fetus begin to hear at about 17 weeks.”

The Johnsons decided to move forward in implanting a cochlear implant in their unborn child through the uterus two weeks after consulting Dr. Douglas.  The internal portion of the cochlear implant was successfully inserted in the unborn child last week.  Both Joanne Johnson and the baby are doing very well after the procedure.  Because there is an external portion of the cochlear implant, which transmits the sounds to the internal device, Johnson has to wear an external sound processor that includes a magnet on her stomach, right by where the baby’s ear is located.  “I know it looks funny to have a magnet with a microphone on my stomach, but I am so happy that my baby is hearing, and he will be born hearing and will be able to learn to speak on time,” said Johnson.

When the baby is born, Johnson will no longer wear the external sound processor on her stomach, as the baby will wear a behind-the-ear sound processor on his head so that he continues to hear sounds during all waking hours.


Click here to see article in AP Press and additional photos.












*Happy April Fools’ Day! – Click here to read more about this situation*

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