Jennifer and Michaela Tesar are identical twin sisters. Like most sisters, sharing clothing, music or makeup comes with the territory; but these sisters share more than fashion. As twins, they share DNA and a condition called degenerative hearing loss. Now in their 30’s, these sisters are sharing a unique experience as participants in an adult clinical trial that will enhance their hearing.
Three years ago, Jennifer became more aware of her hearing limitations and looked to Boys Town National Research Hospital for advancements in hearing aids. She enrolled as Boys Town Hospital’s first participant for a hearing implant clinical trial testing a new Electric Acoustic Stimulation (EAS) device manufactured by MED-EL Corporation.
On June 11, 2012, Jennifer’s EAS device was implanted and a month later the EAS implant was activated—opening a new world of hearing, forever.
“This EAS device is like a hearing aid and a cochlear implant in one,” said Carisa Reyes, Au.D., Cochlear Implant Audiologist at Boys Town National Research Hospital. “The hearing implant helps with the high pitches and the hearing aid helps with the low pitches.”
Boys Town National Research Hospital is one of 15 centers across the country testing the new EAS device for adults. The surgery for the new device requires specialized surgical training using a special surgical technique to implant the shorter and more flexible electrode array, and also to preserve the current cochlea structures and residual hearing.
“The EAS device is highly specialized and tailored toward adults with some residual hearing,” said Rodney Lusk, M.D., Director of Boys Town Ear, Nose and Throat Institute and Co-Director of Boys Town Cochlear Implant Center. “It’s exciting to be a part of this national study. This device offers another opportunity for adults with hearing loss who cannot benefit from hearing aids.”
Jennifer describes her previous hearing as “Swiss cheese.” Sometimes she could hear. Then all of a sudden there would be complete deafness, like there were holes in the conversation.
Because Jennifer has some deafness, hearing aids did not help. And because she has some hearing, a traditional cochlear implant was not the best option.
With the new EAS implant, Jennifer’s speech recognition has gone from 30% before surgery to 95% with the new EAS device.
“Boys Town (Hospital) and my family’s needs just blended. We have the exact hearing loss needed for this study,” said Jennifer. “And the benefit I got was amazing.”
Jennifer also has an older sister with three children. Her nieces and nephews have commented to her that Aunt Jennifer can hear them better.
“It’s crazy, weird and exciting,” said Jennifer. “I am hearing sounds I have never heard before.”
Jennifer’s success has inspired her sister Michaela to consider participation in the study. She has completed the candidacy process and has been selected as the Hospital’s second participant in the EAS clinical trial. Michaela’s EAS implant surgery is schedule for June 10, 2013—nearly one year from the date her sister received her EAS implant.
According to MED-EL Corporation, the company needs a certain number of participants enrolled in the study. The EAS clinical trial is ongoing and is accepting new patients.
“There has never been a downside to my decision,” said Jennifer. “My hearing is better than I was hoping for and I can’t wait to share this with my sister.” EAS is undergoing clinical trial with the FDA and is not FDA approved.
CAUTION--Investigational device. Limited by Federal (or United States) law to investigational use.