JJ, a 4 year old boy from Los Angeles County, recently underwent Auditory Brainstem Implant (ABI) surgery in the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA). He was born profoundly deaf and a cochlear implant two years ago did not help him to hear any sound because his impairment was a lot more severe than a damaged cochlea. ABI is designed for cases like JJ, where hearing loss is due to non-functioning auditory nerves. ABI bypasses the auditory nerve and directly stimulates the cochlear nucleus complex at the brainstem.
Even though ABI surgery has been performed in the US since 1979, it was so far limited to the patients aged 12 years and older. FDA is now getting ready to include younger patients and sets up the safety protocols for patients as young as 2 years. For this, a research team in USC Keck School of Medicine and CHLA are performing trial cases through a NIH funded program. JJ is one of their patients.
JJ prior to the surgery has not heard any sound, and exposing him to the hearing world is not a simple matter. It will take years for him to learn to hear and assign meanings to sounds. Many specialists and parents are essential to provide the education and support that is necessary. Through the documentation of his case, I aim to investigate the role sound and hearing play in our being in the world.