• By Dana Sparks

Sharing Mayo Clinic: Cochlear implants open a new world for Aida

March 17, 2019

When Melinda and Matt Little found out their baby girl, Aida, was deaf, they wanted to do everything they could to enable her to hear. A multidisciplinary team at Mayo Clinic helped them achieve that goal.

Last November, 7-month-old Aida Little was able to hear her parents' voices calling to her for the first time.

"It was such a happy moment. She's such a little miracle," says Aida's mom, Melinda. "We were so excited that she could hear and that from that day on it was going to be a whole new life for us and for her."

Aida was born with Waardenburg syndrome, a rare genetic condition that can cause deafness, skin pigment changes, and pale blue eyes or eyes that don't match in color. The syndrome affects approximately 1 in 40,000 people, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Today, thanks to cochlear implant surgery at Mayo Clinic's Rochester campus, Aida enjoys listening to the radio, and she gets excited when she hears music. "She likes instruments and gleams with happiness when she hears different sounds coming together," Melinda says.

Dealing with difficult news

Aida was born prematurely and stayed in the Newborn Intensive Care Unit for the first weeks of her life. Before being released from the hospital, Aida failed two newborn hearing tests. After the second test, the infant's Mayo Clinic care team shared with her parents, Melinda and Matt, the difficult news that Aida was deaf. They explained that Waardenburg syndrome was most likely the cause.

"Our first reaction was, 'How is Waardenburg going to affect her development?'" Melinda says. "I'm a teacher, so I'm tuned into how kids learn."

Lisa Schimmenti, M.D., the Mayo Clinic geneticist who confirmed Aida's diagnosis, discussed the possibility that Aida could get a cochlear implant — a surgically implanted electronic device that bypasses damaged portions of the inner ear and directly stimulates the hearing nerve. Cochlear implants use an external sound processor that captures sound signals and transmits them to a receiver implanted under the skin behind the ear. The receiver sends the signals to electrodes implanted in the snail-shaped organ of hearing within the ear, called the cochlea.

Before the Littles could consider this option, however, Aida needed an MRI to make sure she was a good candidate for the procedure. Read the rest of Aida's story.
This article originally appeared on the Sharing Mayo Clinic blog.

Journalists: Broadcast-quality video pkg (3:21) is in the downloads at the end of the post. Please ‘Courtesy: Mayo Clinic News Network.’ Read the script.