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October 31, 2023

Baby Sienna Gains the Gift of Hearing After Cochlear Implant Surgery

by Brianna Rauchman

Follow five-month-old Sienna’s inspiring journey, from profound bilateral hearing loss to transformative cochlear implantation at Pacific Neuroscience Institute® (PNI®). Explore the passion and expertise behind PNI’s Cochlear Implant Program.

Five-Month-Old Sienna Faces Profound Bilateral Hearing Loss 

Baby Sienna with her parents at a consultation for cochlear implant at the Pacific Neuroscience Institute

After Sienna failed her newborn hearing screen, a diagnosis of profound bilateral hearing loss prompted her parents to seek treatment. At only five months old, Sienna was referred to PNI to meet with the Director of the Cochlear Implant Program, Courtney Voelker, MD, PhD, and the Audiology Director, Rebecca Lewis, AuD. Renowned for their exceptional expertise and compassion, Dr. Voelker and Dr. Lewis formed the ideal team to consult with Sienna and her family.

Upon examining Sienna, Dr. Voelker shared the benefits of early cochlear implantation for children with deafness. She emphasized how “studies show that even when you compare one year and six months, babies implanted at six months do better.” Recognizing the profound benefits of early intervention, Sienna’s family opted for surgery without delay.  

What is a Cochlear Implant?

Diagram of a cochlear implant

A cochlear implant is a small electronic device surgically placed in the inner ear, specifically the cochlea. It is designed to restore hearing for individuals who have exhausted the benefits of hearing aids, or experience single-sided hearing loss. Cochlear implants are approved by the FDA for children as young as 9 months old. However, due to the significant neuroplasticity in a young child’s brain, parents are choosing to use them off-label at an earlier age. Our program is pushing boundaries by implanting children at a very early stage to enhance their language development.

How do Cochlear Implants Work?

The device consists of external equipment worn on the ear and internal equipment surgically implanted in the ear. The surgery involves making an incision behind the ear. Next, the internal components (receiver and electrode array) are placed beneath the skin. The delicate insertion of the electrode array into the cochlea stimulates the hearing nerve once activated. Notably, the size of the cochlear implant remains fixed throughout one’s life and does not necessitate replacement unless there is a rare technical issue. 

Milestone Moments: Sienna’s Development After Surgery

Baby Sienna with her parents at Pacific Neuroscience Institute

Post-surgery, Sienna’s care transitioned to Dr. Lewis, who meticulously fine-tuned Sienna’s external processors. Within weeks, Sienna’s auditory capabilities flourished. At six months, she exhibited the ability to mimic sounds and vocalize, showcasing the positive impact of early implantation on cognitive development.

Dr. Voelker and Dr. Lewis are thrilled with Sienna’s progress. They celebrate the transformative effect of cochlear implantation on the whole family, describing it as a magical and rewarding experience. “I’m so gratified I get to be a part of that process for them,” Dr. Lewis reflects.

Sienna’s story perfectly illustrates the correlation between early cochlear implantation and enhanced brain development, aligning with current scientific knowledge.

PNI’s Cochlear Implant Program: A Synergy of Passion & Expertise 

Pacific Neuroscience Institute takes pride in orchestrating an efficient and compassionate cochlear implant process. Our expert team shares a strong passion for hearing restoration. From newborns grappling with congenital hearing loss to adults confronting late-onset challenges, PNI harmonizes diverse needs with an unwavering commitment to excellence. 

Watch Sienna’s Inspiring Journey:

About the Cochlear Implant Program

The Cochlear Implant Program at PNI stands out for its commitment to delivering comprehensive and integrated care throughout the entire cochlear implant process. This holistic approach encompasses a range of specialized services, including audiology consultations, vestibular assessments, neurologic evaluations, auditory verbal therapy, and speech therapy. As a testament to our dedication to excellence, we prioritize ongoing innovation and research to continually enhance the care provided to cochlear implant recipients.

Moreover, our commitment to patient empowerment is evident in our provision of second opinions. We understand the importance of informed decision-making in matters of healthcare, and our team is readily available to assist patients in navigating the complexities of their treatment choices.

Leading the program is Dr. Voelker, a distinguished specialist in cochlear implant surgery. Her expertise extends to the diagnosis and treatment of challenging hearing conditions. Additionally, Dr. Lewis, our audiology director, brings extensive experience to the program, offering specialized audiology services to patients of all ages. Together, our team is dedicated to advancing the field of cochlear implants and ensuring the highest quality of care for our patients.

Clinic Location:
11645 Wilshire Blvd, #600, Los Angeles, CA 90025

Cochlear Implant Surgeons, Specialists and Team

Our team of experts can offer review of your medical records and meet via in person or virtual platforms. Hearing health issues can feel complex, especially when making a difficult treatment decision. Getting a second opinion can help you make an informed decision about your care.

About Dr. Voelker

Courtney Voelker MD PhD

Courtney Voelker, MD, PhD, is a Rhodes Scholar and board-certified neurotologist. She is Director of Otology/Neurotology-Lateral Skull Base Surgery; and Director of the Adult & Pediatric Cochlear Implant Program at Pacific Neuroscience Institute. She is an otolaryngology – head & neck surgeon who takes care of adult and pediatric patients seeing a wide range of inner ear and skull base conditions. A Super Doctor Rising Star award recipient, she offers top quality, compassionate care to all her patients.

About Dr. Lewis

Rebecca Lewis AuD

Rebecca Lewis, AuD, is an audiologist and the Audiology Director of the Adult & Pediatric Cochlear Implant Program at Pacific Neuroscience Institute. Additionally, she holds the position of Adjunct Professor at Mount Saint Mary University / John Tracey Deaf and Hard of Hearing program. She has provided rehabilitative services including hearing aids, hearing protection, Osseo integrated devices, auditory brainstem implant and cochlear implant (CI) services to adults and children.

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About the Author

Brianna Rauchman

Brianna Rauchman, BA, is the Communications Coordinator for the Lifestyle Program, where she helps develop outreach strategies to connect with an expanding audience. Her responsibilities include providing launch support, developing content, assisting with collateral design, and planning social media strategies.

Last updated: June 10th, 2024