All sorts of medical procedures have to wait to be performed due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Since some procedures are done in several steps, often separated by weeks or months, there are patients out there that cannot complete the next steps of their therapies. Cochlear implants, which stimulate the auditory nerve to produce hearing in people with profound hearing loss, have to first be implanted in a surgical procedure and then switched on and fine tuned during a separate visit to an audiologist.
A toddler in England has just had her cochlear implant activated for the first time during a remote telemedicine session with her clinicians at the University of Southampton. The clinical team connected their computer to a computer at the child’s house, which was loaded with the necessary software and made to interface with the cochlear implant. Video teleconferencing was used to maintain awareness and to guide parents of the child through the procedure.
Everything went smoothly and the girl can now hear via her newly activated implant. “Usually we do the switch-on of a cochlear implant at our clinic at the University, but with some technical creativity and some advice from colleagues in Australia, we were able to do everything necessary over the internet,” said Professor Helen Cullington in a University of Southampton announcement. “The session went really well and everyone was thrilled with the outcome.”
Here’s a video interview with the main people involved in this project: