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April 26, 2003

Implants allow twins to hear for first time

From: Houston Chronicle, TX - Apr 26, 2003

15-month-old brothers 'born to sound'

Fort Worth Star Telegram

DALLAS -- All eyes were fixed on the blond-haired, blue-eyed boy as those in the hushed room waited for the moment when the first sounds would penetrate his silent world.

As 15-month-old Hunter Corker began to wail and fret in his mother's lap, satisfied smiles spread across the faces of his audiologists, Janee Gisclair and Sarah Florence.

Hunter's tearful reaction confirmed that the cochlear implant he received March 27 at Children's Medical Center of Dallas was working. The device was activated Thursday morning at The University of Texas at Dallas' Callier Center for Communication Disorders.

"It's always exciting, every single time," Florence said.

That thrill was doubled last week because Hunter's twin brother, Hadyn, also received a cochlear implant last month and was able to experience sound for the first time.

Unlike his temperamental brother, Hadyn's eyes widened and he looked around when he began hearing sounds such as the flow of air conditioning, the whir of a computer and his mother's soft voice.

For Bobby and Karen Corker of Lubbock, watching their sons react to sound was pure joy. The boys' hearing was first tested using an electronic tone, and then the implants were activated to allow them to hear all the sounds in the room.

"They can hear us tell them that we love them now," Karen Corker said.

"It's exciting, unbelievable," Bobby Corker said.

Janee Gisclair likened the event to a second birth for the cherubic boys, who are fraternal twins but were dressed identically Thursday in blue jumpers decorated with frogs.

"This is like they're being born to sound today," she said.

Days after the twins were born, doctors discovered that both children had profound hearing loss in which the tiny hair cells on the inner ear are damaged. Doctors say they believe that their hearing loss was due to a congenital defect, Karen Corker said.

When hearing aids offered no improvement, the Corkers became interested in cochlear implants after the daughter of a family friend received one through the Callier Center five years ago.

"You'd never know it," Karen Corker said. "She talks and listens just as good as any of us."

A cochlear implant is an electronic device that converts sound waves into electrical impulses and transmits them to the inner ear to reproduce sound.

The implant system consists of an internal device that is surgically implanted into the inner ear, and an external component that consists of a headset and speech processor.

Dr. Peter Roland, the boys' surgeon and chairman of otolaryngology-head and neck surgery at The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, said that having the implants at such a young age should help the twins develop normal language skills.

The boys' treatment is a collaboration between the Callier Center and UT Southwestern.

"There is this innate ability in younger children to acquire language, and you want to take advantage of that," said Roland, who has performed about 400 cochlear implant surgeries but has never before implanted the device in twins as young as Hunter and Hadyn.

Insurance will cover some but not all the cost of the surgery and follow-up treatment, which will run about $60,000 per child, Karen Corker said.

Bobby Corker said the couple will dedicate themselves to helping the boys develop their hearing and language skills. The boys will return frequently to Dallas to measure their progress.

"Our lives will change when we walk out this door," Bobby Corker said.

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