Stories about: Department of Otolaryngology and Communication Enhancement

From silence to songs and silliness: Róisín’s cochlear implant journey

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When her daughter Róisín started preschool, Margaret Morgan sat in her car, parked just outside of the school building. “I was waiting for someone to call and say, ‘She needs you. She needs you.’”

The call never came. Róisín, now 4, is a social butterfly who loves everything about preschool — from belting out her favorite songs to dancing with her friends.

It isn’t the outcome Margaret imagined when she learned of Róisín’s severe-to-profound hearing loss at age 1.We were terrified, but after months of seeking answers to no avail, we finally felt like we were in safe hands.

“From the time Róisín was very small I knew something wasn’t quite right. She was the best baby; so smiley and so happy, but she wouldn’t always turn toward me when I walked into a room or react in any way to my voice.”

Róisín failed hearing tests at 3 months and 6 months of age in Ireland. “We were told not to worry and were referred to this person and that person. I wasn’t getting a definitive answer, and even though I was encouraged to relax, I was so anxious. I felt my concerns weren’t being addressed, and that I wasn’t being taken seriously,” recalls Margaret.

After several months of frustration, Margaret and her husband Conor decided they needed another opinion.

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Mason’s story: A newborn with a peach-sized tumor

momandmasonWhen Tara Johnson found out— after 10 years of trying to get pregnant—she was carrying boy-girl twins, she was thrilled. “It was so exciting, it felt like a double blessing,” she remembers.

The pregnancy progressed normally until her 21-week checkup when everything changed. Doctors found a large growth on the neck of her unborn son.

Tara’s care was transferred to Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and doctors from Endocrinology and Otolaryngology at Boston Children’s Hospital formed a team to manage her son’s care.

When she was 31 weeks pregnant, Tara and husband Bruce were in Boston to meet with Boston Children’s Associate Otolaryngologist-in-Chief Dr. Reza Rahbar for the first time, when she unexpectedly went into labor. Doctors were able to stop the labor, and Tara was put on bed rest at Brigham and Women’s. “I was really at the right place at the right time,” she says.

The ensuing weeks were filled with a lot of waiting and anxiety, two MRIs, many ultrasounds and multiple meetings with Dr. Rahbar to plan for the twins’ birth and the inevitable surgery to remove her son’s ever-increasing growth. Dr. Rahbar was certain the tumor was a benign teratoma, but couldn’t determine exactly the severity until the baby was born. Bruce remembers, “I worried a lot about whether Mason would make it through all of his medical issues, and at the same time I also worried about the long-term complications if he did survive.”

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Cochlear implants click for Isabelle

Isabella-IVFive-year-old Isabelle Labriola loves sound. She eagerly chats with her twin sister, loves to sing along to holiday songs and enjoys dancing to music. Sounds click with Isabelle, even though enlarged vestibular aqueducts (the tiny canals in the inner ear) resulted in moderate-to-severe hearing loss in her right ear and severe-to-profound hearing loss in her left ear.

Isabelle’s hearing loss was identified at birth, and she was fitted with hearing aids at 6 weeks of age. Cheryl Edwards, AuD, interim director of Diagnostic Audiology in the Department of Otolaryngology and Communication Enhancement at Boston Children’s Hospital, provided testing and hearing aid management every few months. Results of these periodic hearing tests showed the hearing loss was progressing.

By 2 years, Isabelle lost hearing in her left ear to the point where the left hearing aid no longer helped. She managed remarkably well and developed good speech skills with a single hearing aid in the right ear until 4 years of age, says her mother Vicki Labriola.

“We started to see progressive hearing loss in her right ear,” says Vicki. Isabelle’s otolaryngologist, Greg Licameli, MD, director of Boston Children’s Cochlear Implant Program, together with her care team suggested that Vicki and her husband, Jason, consider cochlear implants for Isabelle, because it was likely that she would lose all hearing in the right ear. She would then be deaf in both ears.

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Super Inspirational

Like a lot of Americans, 11-year-old Trever is excited for Super Bowl XLVIII. A lifelong Denver Broncos fan, Trever would normally have plenty of trash-talk ready for his team’s opponents, the Seattle Seahawks, but this year even he’s a little torn about whom to cheer for on game day.

What could possibly make a die-hard Denver fan like Trever question his loyalty? A minute-long TV commercial starting Derrick Coleman, the first deaf offensive player to make it to the NFL:

Like Coleman, Trever is a football player— he’s a kicker, punt returner and linesman for both the defensive and offensive squads of his Walpole team. Also like Coleman, Trever is deaf.

“The whole commercial was very inspiring to me, both as a deaf person and a football player,” says Trever, who receives treatment from the team at the Department of Otolaryngology and Communication Enhancement at Boston Children’s Hospital. “It helps me to be more confident about myself.”

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