Neuroscience of Hearing: Brain Implants in the Fight Against Childhood Deafness

Saturday, 14 February 2015: 3:00 PM-4:30 PM
Room 230C (San Jose Convention Center)
Once a major life-handicapping condition, childhood deafness can be overcome thanks to the innovation of the cochlear implant (CI), a sensory device that assists deaf children in developing listening skills and spoken language despite the fact that the signal conveyed to the brain is quite unlike speech. While the CI is a major breakthrough, many children cannot use a CI because they were born with a deficient or absent cochlear nerve. How can we enable hearing in the absence of necessary elements of the human auditory system? Multidisciplinary synergy across areas of neuroscience, rehabilitation, and education has enabled development of the auditory brainstem implant (ABI). Unlike older devices, an ABI is placed directly on the cochlear nucleus of the brainstem, bypassing the cochlea and auditory nerve. Auditory information is converted to electrical signals that travel from the brain stem to the auditory cortex. As with other surgical innovations such as the CI, intense collaboration among specialists in neuroimaging, neurosurgery, speech-language pathology, audiology, education, and psychology is required to enable this groundbreaking device to bridge the child’s experience with the hearing world and teach the child how to interpret the incoming flood of sensory information. Despite public perception, a device alone cannot cure deafness. Rather, multiple disciplines must join forces to combat this most devastating of communication impairments in preschool-aged children.
Nan Ratner, University of Maryland
Robert V. Shannon, University of Southern California, Keck School of Medicine
Laurie S. Eisenberg, University of Southern California
Born Without an Auditory Nerve: Auditory Brainstem Implant to the Rescue
Eric P. Wilkinson, House Clinic and Huntington Medical Research Institutes
When To Choose Auditory Brainstem Implantation Instead of Cochlear Implantation in Children
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