By P. KELLY SMITH
The “father” of modern otoneurologic surgery and the pioneer of the “bionic ear” spoke at an audiology seminar Tuesday night at the John Taylor Building.
William F. House discussed “Innovations in Short Electrode Cochlear Implants and the Sleeping Baby Test.”
According to David McPherson, chair of the Department of Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology at BYU, House is one of the foremost ear physicians in the world.
House recently developed a new cochlear implant using a short electrode that will permit a wider use of the implant. House is also working on a screening procedure called the “Sleeping Baby Test” that will be use on newborns and small children.
House said hearing loss is the result of few hair cells and dendrites in the inner ear. With his new invention, House has put a microphone inside the cochlear implant that will transmit electrical stimulation and therefore, sound.
House said he wished the medical community would start viewing the ear from an electrical standpoint, instead of a mechanical one.
“It is like the heart,” House said. “No one wonders how the heart pumps anymore. Doctors now study it from an electrical standpoint. That’s how the pacemaker came about.”
House also recommended the use of a implant to hearing aid patients.
“We think you are going to hear better with your implant, than your present hearing aid,” House said.
House also said that there was no age limit to receiving a cochlear implant.
“Deafness is such a horrible thing,” he said. “If a person can hear in their last years of life, I think it’s worth it. I recently put a implant in a 95-year-old man. He got married after that.”
House said strides are now being made in inventing new screening procedures and treatments for deaf children.
“If children can’t hear the normal sounds around them, they can’t learn speech,” House said. “Most parents don’t know their children are deaf until they’re six months or older.”
One out of 1000 children is born deaf, with one or two more of this group becoming deaf through skull fractures, meningitis or viral infections, House said.
House said there are two things parents can give their children. One, life itself, and two, their own language.
“Our goal is for kids to be able to go to school when they’re six years old,” House said. “This is the age when they have enough language to be educated.”
House said screening procedures for children have not been very effective in the past.
“If we only screen the high-risk kids or kids we suspect might have hearing loss, we’re only catching 50 percent of the cases.”
In view of this, House designed the “Sleeping Baby Test,” which is a screening procedure where parents place a monitor on their baby’s back, soon after it falls asleep. Then the mother recites the five sounds of frequency and sees if her child responds to her.
House said babies are most sensitive their mother’s voices and begin hearing at five months in the womb.
House has performed over 400 cochlear implant surgeries, many of them on patients as young as two years old.
House has established a foundation, AllHear and has a website located at www.AllHear.com.6