When it became clear that hearing aids weren't enough to help 9-year-old Emma Kriegstein, her parents and the audiologists at The Hearing Center knew it was time to turn to different technology to improve her hearing.
Emma, of Matawan, was born with progressive sensorineural hearing loss, permanent hearing loss caused by an abnormal or damaged inner ear. According to Dr. Eric Sandler, director of audiology at The Hearing Center, Emma's possibility to hear would likely improve with a cochlear implant, which utilizes an implanted electrode array to bypass the damaged portion of the ear and stimulate the auditory nerve.
"Patients need to meet audiological and medical criteria to receive the implant, and Emma was a perfect candidate," Sandler said.
Emma's hearing loss was confirmed when she was four-and-a-half, although she had expressed difficulties from a younger age. A neighbor referred them to The Hearing Center, which immediately recommended hearing aids. While the devices worked well for around three years, Emma's parents Elizabeth Feudale and Neil Kriegstein noticed diminished hearing in her left ear, a decline which continually worsened.
"We were shocked – even though there was a family history [of hearing loss] on both sides, nobody had trouble as a child," said Kriegstein. "We tried coming up with 1,000 excuses as to why it could be wrong, but there was no question that Emma needed help."
"We've been working with Emma and her family for several years, and we were constantly changing the settings on her hearing aids," added Dr. Stefanie Perle, The Hearing Center's lead audiologist on cochlear implant cases, and one of three audiologists working with Emma. "The hearing aid was no longer providing sufficient benefit. Her best option… was to consider a cochlear implant."
Emma received her implant this past July, and the device was activated by Drs. Sandler and Perle in August. Since activation, Feudale said that there has been a "drastic, positive" change in Emma's hearing.
"There have been major improvements large and small alike," Feudale said. "I can call for her from downstairs while she's upstairs and she can hear me. I can talk to her with my back turned and she will be able to answer me. These life improvements have made a huge difference."
"The implant has changed her life by leaps and bounds," Kriegstein added. "She has picked up on sounds we take for granted, such as a piano playing in a song, and she lights up with joy when she can hear them."
According to Feudale, The Hearing Center fought "tooth and nail" for Emma to receive the care and equipment she needed.
"The staff at The Hearing Center exhibits genuine care and concern for Emma's well-being," Feudale said. "We've been through a bunch of audiologists, and we haven't had the confidence and trust in others like we have for The Hearing Center."
"The Hearing Center has put Emma's quality of life at the front and center of her care," Perle added. "We are beyond thrilled about the progress she's made in such a short time."