Trinity audiologists to activate cochlear implant

A Devils Lake infant will get to hear his mom’s voice for the first time Friday as Trinity Health audiologists activate the boy’s newly implanted cochlear implant.

One-year-old Blake Zimmerman will have his new hearing device activated Friday starting at 10 a.m. He is the first North Dakota resident to receive a cochlear implant in a surgery performed in the state, according to Trinity Health.

“At the upcoming initial stimulation or activation appointment at Trinity this little boy’s hearing nerve will be stimulated for the first time through this implant,” said Trinity Health audiologist Jerrica Maxson. “For many children born with severe to profound hearing loss, it is a very memorable day because it is the first time they will truly hear the voices of their loved ones.”

Blake was diagnosed with bilateral profound hearing loss last year after a newborn screening indicated a substantial hearing deficit. His hearing aids were fitted a couple of months after his diagnosis, Maxson said, and has been seen every three to six months to optimize his hearing aids while waiting to get approval for his surgery. He needed to be at least a year old before insurance would approve coverage for the surgery. His surgery was performed by Dr. Joshua Yorgason of Sanford Health in Bismarck in late July. Before the arrival of Yorgason, North Dakotans had to travel out of state to receive cochlear implant surgery.

“The activation of a cochlear implant has to be performed by an audiologist,” Maxson said. “To start, we’ll stimulate the hearing nerve one electrode at a time to determine how much current is needed on each electrode to provide stimulation to the hearing nerve. A program will be created where all of the electrodes are on, providing the child the ability to hear sound. Since the brain has never heard like this, it will take time for the little boy to learn to understand what he is hearing and make sense of it.”

Blake will continue to receive early intervention services to facilitate his auditory, speech and language development. He’ll also return to the audiologists for re-programming of his implant about five times in the first three months, then every three to six months for a couple of years.