MAYWOOD, IL – Due to a childhood bout with the flu, Julia Conkin suffered progressive hearing loss that started in her left ear and continued to her right ear.
”I couldn’t hear conversations or even listen to music without the use of a hearing aid, and due to my worsening condition, hearing aids weren’t even working well," Ms. Conkin said.
“Julia’s hearing was so bad she had to rely on sign language and that severely limited the number of people she could communicate with,” said Loyola audiologist Adriana Russ, AuD. “She came to Loyola to see if she was a candidate for a cochlear implant.”
Matt Kircher, MD, an ear, nose and throat surgeon, implanted a cochlear implant in a one-hour outpatient surgery. “Julia had suffered from really bad hearing for a very long time and was at the end of her rope and looking for the next step,” said Dr. Kircher. "A cochlear implant is a device usually used in patients like Julia who have failed hearing aids.”
Unlike a traditional hearing aid, a cochlear implant does not make sound louder or clearer; rather it bypasses the damaged parts of the auditory system and stimulates the hearing nerve, allowing sound to be received.
The cochlear implant system contains two parts: the external processor and the internal implant. The external processor is worn behind the ear and includes a speech processor, a microphone and a battery compartment. The internal implant is surgically placed under the skin behind the ear. These two parts work together to allow for the perception of sound.
Dr. Kircher has performed hundreds of cochlear implants. He makes a small incision behind the ear, exposing the cochlea. Then, an opening is made in the cochlea and the electrodes for the implant are inserted. The internal implant is then placed beneath the skin.
A few weeks after implantation, Dr. Kircher and the team place the external processor, microphone and implant transmitter. A Loyola audiologist activates the implant.
“With Julia, the expectations for hearing improvement were modest but the results were spectacular,” said Russ.
Ms. Conkin calls her cochlear implant a life-changer. "I noticed almost immediately after my implant was activated that I could hear things I had not heard for years, like music and conversations at gatherings,” she said. “It was beautiful to hear other people.”
Loyola Medicine is nationally recognized for its expertise in diagnosing and treating a broad range of ear, nose and throat conditions and providing integrated services for optimal patient care.