Dr. Alex Sweeney (320x240)
Dr. Alex Sweeney, assistant professor and Dorothy L. McGee Endowed Chair of Otolaryngology at Baylor.

Hearing loss can be debilitating to an individual’s ability to communicate. It can impact everyday life, causing feelings of loneliness, isolation and frustration, specifically among older adults. Hearing aids have been an effective way to restore hearing, though in some cases, best-fit aids are unable to provide adequate benefit for people with advanced hearing loss. This month, experts at Baylor College of Medicine hope to bring awareness to a device that may provide benefit in this situation – cochlear implants.

“A cochlear implant is able to communicate directly with the hearing nerve via electrical impulses,” said Dr. Alex Sweeney, assistant professor and Dorothy L. McGee Endowed Chair of Otolaryngology at Baylor. “This technology is designed to help individuals who have limited benefit using standard hearing aids.”

Different from a traditional hearing aid, cochlear implants use electrical information to bypass a damaged auditory system in order to improve sound detection and understanding. Remarkably, the brain is able to process this information quite well, Sweeney said. 

“The implant only involves a short surgery, which is usually performed on an outpatient basis, and most implant recipients are able to quickly realize what they have been missing once the implant has been activated. Over time, it’s incredible what these patients can achieve.” 

Individuals with poor word understanding ability while wearing traditional amplification may qualify for a cochlear implant. However, Sweeney said it is important to note that cochlear implant candidacy is determined by a specific evaluation, rather than a basic hearing test. 

On Oct., 25 individuals in the Houston area have the opportunity to meet with physicians, audiologists, representatives from different cochlear implant manufacturers and other individuals in their community who are interested in cochlear implantation. “It will give candidates, recipients and their family members the opportunity to learn more about cochlear implant technology and the process for implantation in an interactive atmosphere,” Sweeney said.

The beginning portion of the seminar will be designed as an open house to allow one-on-one communication with the cochlear implant manufactures. The second portion involves structured educational content provided by the Baylor Cochlear Implant Team. This event is designed for patients, with patient needs in mind. The goal is to provide a comprehensive meeting in which current and prospective patients can benefit.

The open house will be from 3 to 5:30 p.m., and the seminar portion is from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. There will be a “mix-and-mingle” during the seminar portion to allow candidates and recipients to meet. This event is free and open to any individual who has concerns about their hearing and wants to learn more about their options. It will be held at the Bobby R. Alford Educational Center on the Baylor College of Medicine McNair Campus, and parking will be validated.

To RSVP, email ears@bcm.edu.