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Johns Hopkins Medicine
Media Relations and Public Affairs
August 3, 2006


Miss America 1995, Heather Whitestone McCallum, who was nearly deaf for 28 years until a team at Johns Hopkins implanted a hearing device four years ago in her right ear, will have her second cochlear implant activated in the left ear at 1 p.m. ET, Monday, Aug. 7, at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, Md.  The new device, implanted at Hopkins in July, will allow her to hear from both ears for the first time, improving her awareness of sounds, their direction, and her understanding of speech in challenging listening environments, such as restaurants.  McCallum’s first implant on Aug. 7, 2002, allowed her to hear for the first time her family’s voices, including those of her two young sons.  She lost residual hearing in her left ear six months ago, prompting her to seek a second implant. 

The outpatient procedure takes from two to three hours and will be at Hopkins’ Hearing and Balance Center at 601 North Caroline St.  An audiologist and a hearing specialist, including the Center’s director, John Niparko, M.D., a professor at Hopkins’ School of Medicine who has treated McCallum for the past six years, will activate the implant’s 23 electrodes.  During the activation, Niparko and certified clinical audiologist Jennifer Yeagle, M.Ed., C.C.C.-A., will use computer software to send an electrical impulse across each electrode so that the hearing nerve can receive sound signals.  Then, McCallum and Yeagle will balance the tuning of her right and left implants, combining the signals into recognizable sounds. 

Cochlear implants are miniature devices designed to mimic the work of the inner ear in converting sound waves into electrical impulses carried to the brain.  Unlike hearing aids, which simply amplify sound, cochlear implants are much more complicated.  Composed of two parts, the devices simulate hearing by picking up sound through an external microphone located behind the ear and transmitting sound as electrical signals across the skin to an implanted receiver.  The implanted device sends microcurrents directly into the hearing nerve, producing the sensation of hearing in the brain.  More than 10,000 children are born deaf each year in the United States, and an estimated 1.5 million people are believed to be good candidates for cochlear implants.  An estimated 100,000 people worldwide have cochlear implants, with about 5 percent having bilateral devices.

The procedure is open to the media, and McCallum, Niparko and Yeagle will be available for comment afterwards.  Interview requests for McCallum after Aug. 7 can be arranged through Andrea Tenbroek, at 781-684-0770.

- JHM -


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