Hearing-tech boost gives brothers double the reason for cheer

Imagine Christmas without the sound of neighbors caroling, bells jingling and loved ones laughing. For brothers Eli and Ian Richardson, that was a very real possibility.

Eli, 7, and Ian, 5, were born with profound hearing loss. Eli is a graduate of and Ian attends Carle Auditory Oral School (CAOS). They use Cochlear Americas cochlear implants to hear inside and outside the classroom.

Even with implants, children can experience periods of hearing loss.

“If the implant is not functioning or needs to be replaced, the child will not be able to hear,” said Jean Thomas, manager of Expanding Children’s Hearing Opportunities (ECHO). “The length of time the child is without hearing can depend on how long the replacement or repair takes.”

ECHO now partners with Cochlear Americas to address repair and replacement with new technology called Cochlear Link. The cloud-based service connects a patient’s implant data to a shared database, allowing ECHO staff more time with patients and less with paperwork and repair issues.

Plus, faster service mean less time without hearing.

“Cochlear Americas will be able to pull the latest implant processor configuration from the cloud, program the new implant replacement and send it directly to the patient,” Thomas said.

The benefits for Eli and Ian are especially important this Christmas season, mother Leslie Richardson said.

“The boys having reliable hearing means they can enjoy their favorite Christmas movies and continue to learn spoken language, Leslie said.

“It means they can tell Santa what they want and hear him talk to them, as well.”

Moments like these make Thomas even more excited about Cochlear Link.

“We don’t want our patients to experience time without hearing,” she said. “If this coordinated effort with Cochlear Americas keeps our patients hearing all day every day, we’re excited for this service.”

Leslie and the boys are more excited than anyone.

“Eli and Ian love talking and having conversations,” Leslie said. “Without their hearing, the boys would definitely miss hearing everyone’s voice.”

ECHO is poised to be the model in standard of care for children with hearing loss in the Midwest. In addition to helping fund the building that houses the pediatric hearing center and CAOS, generous donations to Carle Center for Philanthropy provide state-of-the-art equipment and supplies, fund cochlear implant research and make the school accessible to families in need.