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About Sickkids
About SickKids

March 7, 2011

Ontario providing additional cochlear implants for children and adults with severe hearing loss

Braydy Abbott’s first year of life was more eventful than her parents, Danielle and Jamie, ever expected it to be. She developed pneumonia only 24 hours after birth, was soon diagnosed with heart problems, and a hearing test at two months confirmed what earlier tests had suggested: Braydy had severe to profound hearing impairment.

Within a week, Braydy began her journey with the Cochlear Implant Program at SickKids. Some further medical complications arose, but on February 1, the 13-month-old underwent a successful bilateral cochlear implant surgery. Braydy’s three-year-old sister, Faith, eagerly anticipated the special moment when Braydy’s “magic ears” would be switched on. That moment happened on March 1. 

Braydy Abbott, 14 months, at SickKids this morning for the second ‘switch on’ of her cochlear implants, as Minister of Health and Long-Term Care Deb Matthews and guests look on.

This morning, Braydy was back at SickKids for the second ‘switch on’ of her cochlear implants. Joining Braydy and her family in the room was a very special guest: Minister of Health and Long-Term Care Deb Matthews. Matthews was at SickKids to announce that Ontario is providing 184 additional cochlear implants for children and adults requiring the implants.

The one-time funding will provide additional cochlear implants at five Ontario hospitals between now and March 31, 2012. Cochlear implants are provided at SickKids, The Ottawa Hospital, Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario, London Health Sciences Centre, and Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre. These five hospitals usually perform a total of 190 implants annually.

The program at SickKids is internationally recognized as a leading clinical and research facility for cochlear implants in children. It was the first paediatric centre for cochlear implantation in Canada, and is the largest in the country, implanting 120 devices annually. The program recently celebrated a major milestone: the 1000th cochlear implant.

“I’m so grateful that we live in this time when medical miracles really do happen. We’re really lucky,” says Braydy’s mom Danielle. “I just think of the options Braydy has ahead of her now; the cochlear implants will help her in every aspect of her life.”

Gurvinder Toor will second that. The 20-year-old research student in the SickKids Cochlear Implant Program was once a patient in the program. He addressed guests and media at this morning’s announcement.

“The very fact that I am standing here before you is evidence of the possibilities created by cochlear implants in children,” said Toor, who received his implant almost 13 years ago following a profound hearing loss. “I could hear for my first eight years of life, which made the adjustment to the hearing loss very difficult. Having received my cochlear implant, I was once again capable of hearing and making sense of sound. Sticking a device made up of some silicon and platinum in my head allowed me to gain it back. This sounds so amazing now, so imagine how amazing it must have sounded to an eight-year-old.”

This experience sparked a young Toor’s interest and led to his decision to one day go to medical school and become a doctor. As for Braydy, her big sister Faith has other plans for her: teaching her to sing and dance.

What are cochlear implants?
Cochlear implants are electronic devices that help to improve the hearing of children and adults with severe to profound hearing impairments. Around the world, more than 200,000 people have received cochlear implants. While a regular hearing aid amplifies sound, a cochlear implant bypasses the work of the non-functioning inner ear and restores the ability to perceive and understand sounds, such as speech and music.

Cochlear implants consist of three parts:

  • a transmitter and microphone that are attached externally behind the ear (like a hearing aid)
  • a speech processor
  • an electrode array that is surgically placed in the cochlea (the part of the ear that communicates sound signals to the brain)

The microphone picks up sound and sends it to the speech processor, which then translates the sound into digital information. The information travels to the transmitter, which sends a signal to the implant. The implant sends the signal to electrodes that are in the cochlea. Then electrodes activate the auditory nerve, sending sound information to the brain, enabling the person to hear.