A chirping cricket was the first sound Michelle Schreffler heard after her cochlear implant was activated.
“I cried because I knew the cochlear implant was working — it was an overwhelmingly emotional experience,” says Michelle. Her husband Josh and their two-year-old daughter, Bayleigh, were also born deaf and are both recent recipients of cochlear implants.
A cochlear implant is an electronic device that can provide a sense of sound to an individual who is severely hard-of-hearing or deaf. “Normal” hearing is not restored; signals generated by the implant bypass damaged parts of the inner ear (cochlea) to stimulate the auditory nerve and send sound signals to the brain.
“If a patient is struggling with hearing aids, a cochlear implant is a potential option for them,” says Ravi N. Samy, MD, Pediatric and Adult Otologist/Neurotologist at West Chester Hospital and associate professor of otolaryngology at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. Dr. Samy implanted Josh Schreffler’s device. “The implant delivers an alternate form of sound to which your brain eventually adapts.”
The external portion of the implant sits behind the ear and an internal portion is placed under the skin.
More than 1,000 cochlear implants have been inserted in Cincinnati patients and Dr. Samy states that 75 percent of his adult patients can talk on the telephone by six months post-op.
Individuals who receive the implant learn to understand environmental sounds, recognize warning signals (e.g.,car horn or fire alarm), have improved lip-reading skills, and can often comprehend speech in person.
Research has shown that children demonstrate especially high levels of improvement in sound detection and in their auditory perception skills following implantation.
“Bayleigh was busy playing with toys at her activation appointment, but when her implant was turned on she became frightened of the new sensation and cried,” says Michelle. “Now she loves to listen to music and dance. She has developed so much since her surgery at one year old.”
Bayleigh attends a speech therapy class, but Michelle and Josh still emphasize the importance of teaching their daughter American Sign Language.
Josh Schreffler received his cochlear implant in early 2016 at West Chester Hospital. “Josh instantly noticed a huge improvement compared to his hearing aid, and is very happy with the implant,” says Michelle. “The entire staff at West Chester Hospital were so friendly and made it a great experience for our family.”