1-year-old twins to have cochlear implants turned on, expected to hear for first time
Contact: Steve O’Brien
DALLAS – April 17, 2003 – One-year-old twin brothers Hunter and Haydn Corker of West Texas have all sorts of similarities like blond hair, sparkling blue eyes and infectious laughs. They also have profound hearing loss.
The nation’s leading hearing specialists expect that latter trait to change today when they hear for the first time.
“That’s going to be a special moment,” said their mother, Karen Corker.
Each brother underwent surgery to receive cochlear implants last month in Dallas and have returned to have the implants turned on.
The surgery and future therapy to help the boys learn to process sound is a collaboration between The University of Texas at Dallas’ Callier Center for Communication Disorders and The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas.
Dr. Peter Roland, chairman of otolaryngology-head and neck surgery at UT Southwestern and one of the nation’s leading experts in cochlear implants, performed the outpatient surgeries March 27 at Children’s Medical Center of Dallas. Roland has implanted cochlear devices in adult twins, but never in twins as young as Hunter and Haydn, making the surgery one of the first of its kind in the nation.
“This will allow these two boys to have relatively normal hearing for the rest of their lives,” Roland said. “The technology is amazing, and by implanting the devices so early in their lives, we expect them to adjust well and function normally as they grow older.”
The fraternal twins, who live in Wolfforth, outside of Lubbock, were born a few weeks early but had no medical problems other than profound sensorineural hearing loss – in which the tiny hair cells in the inner ear are damaged. The hearing loss was discovered through routine tests after the boys were born. Follow-up tests on Haydn and Hunter showed the hearing deficiencies were significant, said their parents, Bobby and Karen Corker. Traditional hearing aids provided no significant improvement in the children’s hearing, leading them to consider cochlear implants.
A cochlear implant is an electronic device that bypasses the outer, middle and inner ear and directly stimulates the inner ear’s surviving auditory nerve fibers. Each cochlear implant system consists of two parts: an internal device that is surgically implanted into the inner ear, and an external component that consists of a headset and speech processor.
Coincidentally, the daughter of a Corker family friend had received a cochlear implant from Roland through the UTD/Callier Center about five years ago.
“You wouldn’t even know the little girl had a hearing problem or a cochlear implant,” Karen Corker said. “She speaks perfectly and hears great. That’s when we decided we wanted to pursue getting implants for the boys. To me, this is something that’s going to help them in life.”
After speaking with the girl and her parents, the Corkers decided to visit Roland, whose name also had come up in conversations with Lubbock audiologists. “We wanted the best person we could find,” Karen Corker said. After the initial visit, Roland recommended further testing at the Callier Center and magnetic resonance imaging at Children’s Medical Center.
Dr. Ross Roeser, director of the Callier Center and professor of communication sciences and disorders at UT Dallas, said a cochlear implant enables children and adults to detect speech and identify everyday sounds, such as fire engines and doorbells. The Corker twins also will eventually be able to talk, and hear and understand speech.
“Because a child’s cognitive development is established within his or her first few years, the earlier a child is evaluated and implanted, the better the chance of normal cognitive and language development,” Roeser said.
Intensive speech, language and hearing therapy will continue at the Callier Center as the twins learn to hear and speak in coming years.
Together, the Callier Center and UT Southwestern, as part of the North Texas Cochlear Implant Team, have been involved in implants on more than 200 children and 100 adults.
About the Callier Center
Established in 1962, the Callier Center is nationally recognized for advances in the treatment and prevention of hearing, speech and language disorders that affect individuals of all ages, from infants to seniors. The center is part of UTD’s School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences and is located on Inwood Road in Dallas, adjacent to UT Southwestern, St. Paul University Hospital and Parkland Memorial Hospital. The center educates future clinicians and researchers, offers state-of-the-art clinical and educational services and conducts innovative research.