Tag Archives: Auditory Brainstem Implant

Auditory Brainstem Implants in the News

Quick bonus post this morning:  Auditory Brainstem Implants (ABI) made their way through mainstream news yesterday with the story of 3 year old Grayson Clamp who recently received an ABI in my old ‘hood at UNC Chapel Hill. Check out the CNN Story and here’s a youtube video:

If you recall from my earlier post on ABIs, the brainstem implant is a more invasive procedure then Cochlear Implants (CI), reserved for patients in which the auditory nerve is damaged and the CI is ineffective. What’s particularly newsworthy is that ABIs have historically only been done on adults – Grayson is the first child in the US to receive one.

What’s amazing to me is I just last week talked about a new study for children, and then BAM we already have a positive story. Amazing how fast things move.

Our hope is that the Fiona is eligible for the CI and will not need an ABI. The odds are in her favor, but we won’t know for sure in some time. We do have an MRI scheduled for July 15th, so hope to know more at that time.

Many thanks to everyone who sent me the link to this story, I hadn’t heard of it until you reached out to me.

Auditory Brainstem Implants

I read an interesting article this morning about a study starting up in Boston that uses Auditory Brainstem Implants (ABI) on infants that are not eligible for Cochlear Implants. This was particularly interesting to me because (1) I had no clue what an Auditory Brainstem Implant actually was and (2) the possibility that Fiona might not be eligible for a Cochlear Implant hadn’t yet occurred to me (cue latest mini-freakout).

So I did some research and here’s what I found: In less then 1% of deaf individuals, the actual auditory nerve from the cochlea to the brain is damaged or nonfunctional (from wikipedia). If you saw my post on Cochlear Implants, you’ll see that the CI works by connecting electrodes into the inner ear and through the cochlea, bypassing the damaged ear “hair cells” and stimulating the auditory nerve directly, which then carries the signal to the brain. If the auditory nerve is damaged, then a CI can’t work.

This is where Auditory Brainstem Implants (ABI) come in. They work very similarly to the CI, but instead bypass the cochlea and auditory nerve to stimulate the brainstem directly, as shown below:

Auditory Brainstem Implant

Auditory Brainstem Implant

So why don’t people just do the ABI?

Well first of all, you’re now talking brain surgery so the complexity, risk and cost of the procedure is much higher. Secondly, the effectiveness (in terms of spoken word understanding) is at best equal to CI, and often less. So in other words, more risk for less results. But, if no other options exist, this may be a last hope.

The scope of ABIs done is far less then CI: 1000 adults worldwide for ABI vs. 200,000 for CI. Also, until recently ABIs were only FDA approved for children over 12 years old. The study cited above is new in that it is being performed on infants, which should be interesting to watch.

As of today we don’t know the cause of Fiona’s deafness or if she would not be eligible for CI. Tomorrow we visit the ENT (Ear, Nose, Throat) doctor for the first time, and while we don’t expect to have all the answers then, we do expect to know the next steps.

Fiona At 6 Weeks

Fiona At 6 Weeks (Yesterday)