Cochlear implant opens world of sound to young patients


“When I first got it, I liked the sound of everything.”

That’s what Sarah Ali, now 16, remembers about receiving a cochlear implant 15 years ago.

“For it was probably three weeks, she would stomp around the house and laugh at the sound of her own feet. Environmental sounds were just amazing to her,” Leslie Baker says of the day the cochlear implant was turned on for her 4-year-old daughter, Kittiya Laemmer, now 19.

Cochlear implants are small, electronic devices that provide a sense of sound to people who are profoundly hard of hearing or deaf. The result is not normal hearing, but an approximation of natural sound.

UIC’s cochlear implant program is one of the largest in Chicago, serving both adults and children. The program, offered by the audiology and neurotology service in the College of Medicine’s department of otolaryngology, expects to treat about 50 patients this year.


When Kittiya Laemmer, 19, received a cochlear implant 15 years ago, she laughed at the sound of her footsteps, her mother recalls. Photo: Joshua Clark/UIC Photo Services

Fifteen years ago, several patients and their families were interviewed on camera soon after receiving cochlear implants. This year, two patients who received the implants as toddlers returned to talk about its effects on their lives as they mature into young adults.

“I would just say that it changes a person’s life completely,” says Sarah’s father, Habib Ali.

After the implant, recipients undergo months of auditory training to learn to interpret sound in their day-to-day lives. The UIC cochlear implant team includes a neurotologist, speech language pathologist, psychologist, audiologists and a deaf educator.

For more information on the program, call 312-996-6582.

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