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New Hearing Implant Enhances Hearing of Twin Sisters

​​​​Jennifer and M​ichaela 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.

  • New Hearing Implant Enhances Hearing of Twin Sisters



    “Good afternoon, can I help you?”

    “I have a one o’clock appointment today with Carisa.”

    I’ve been going to Boys Town since I was very, very young to work with them on my hearing loss. I have a degenerative hearing loss that we started noticing when I was in grade school. All the hearing that I have is below the normal range of hearing and in that there are specific sounds that I can’t actually hear at all, S-H, T-H and a lot of the soft sounds.

    My hearing loss, I think, is around the same level and it manifests in exactly the same way, as far as, the spottiness of it, the things that we can hear, and over the years what we have lost as far as the higher pitches and things.

    The things I know I used to be able to hear as a child or even 10 years ago that I can’t hear as an adult. The example I use is my Dad does a whistle when he walks in the front door and I realized at one point I couldn’t hear it anymore.

    We had looked into hearing aids in the past and they hadn’t really worked out for us because of the specific hearing loss that we have. We kind of always worked through it and read lips and stuff like that.

    We had always been checking in with Boys Town for technology that could be helping us. They had started this study with the type of cochlear implant that I ended up getting, where it’s a hearing aid and a cochlear implant. We started discussing it and it sounded like it was the perfect thing for somebody with my kind of specific type of hearing loss to look into.

    We’re one of 10 institutions around the nation that are participating in the study of this particular device. The processor takes sounds from the environment, interprets them as being high or low and presents them either acoustically or an electrical stimulation. It does this very fast and does it based on the patient’s needs, which is a very unique processor.

    Jennifer’s implant was surgically inserted on June 11, 2012.

    The implant was activated one month later.

    “The blatant display of favoritism was shocking to the class.”

    “The blatant display of favoritism was shocking to the class.”

    With normal, nothing going on, I was hearing about 33 percent, actual speech, not just noises, but understanding the words that were being said.



     At this point I’m at 95 percent speech recognition in this ear. It’s already helped me professionally. The job that I have right now I wouldn’t be able to do. I was on the phone all day today with people and I used to not be able to talk on the phone at all.

    In my personal life I didn’t know that microwaves when you hit the buttons and suddenly there are all these timers on things like my oven that I never knew were there before but suddenly it makes a noise when it’s done cooking. I had no idea!

    “This green line would match these and our only concerns are these two low pitches.”

    It gets cool slowly and over time. It’s not like this instantaneous benefit. It’s something where you immediately see the potential but then it’s sort of a slow process of actually realizing it. There’s a lot of patience and perseverance to get through it but there are little cool things to get you through it all the time. Like I said, the little noises that you hear that you never heard before. Those are little tiny victories you have all the time to kind of carry through the process.

    Michaela will also participate in the trial. Her surgery is scheduled for June 2013.

    Finding out that Jenny was doing it, I immediately wanted to be a part of the study as well. It’s something I was very interested in and the sooner the better, as far as, doing something to improve my hearing.

    Boys Town is the only group in Omaha that’s currently involved in this study and has access to that technology. We like to think we are at the cutting edge of communicative disorders here at Boys Town. That’s one of the things that we are all about. We think that it opens up a large population that is currently under served in terms of their hearing loss and we now have a tool that we can really help them with.

    I do feel very lucky to have grown up here and have this environment, such a great facility and we’ve always had such good experiences here with the audiologists and the people we have worked with. It has been nothing but a positive experience for me.

Patient Story;Cochlear Implants;Childhood Deafness;Hearing Aids Hearing and Balance