The USC Speech and Hearing Research Center, housed in the Arnold School of Public Health’s Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders (COMD), works with patients across the lifespan to enhance their communication abilities. For more than 45 years, the Center has served clients in the areas of articulation, fluency, voice, language and literacy, hearing and many others. The clinical scientists and students who run the Center log approximately 6,000 patient visits and 225 patient outreach hours every year.
One of the services that sets the Center apart is its cochlear implant program, which is the only one of its kind in the Midlands area of South Carolina and the one of only two joint cochlear implant/auditory-verbal programs in the state. More than 28 million Americans are deaf or severely hard-of-hearing, and cochlear implants provide a much-needed option for enhancing spoken communication for patients.
The implant, which is a small, complex electronic device, is surgically implanted and helps the ear pick up, process, transmit, and amplify sound by bypassing the damaged portions of the ear to stimulate the auditory nerve directly. Cochlear implants do not restore hearing, but they can provide wearers with sound representations from the environment that can help them understand speech.
The Center’s clinical and rehabilitative cochlear implant team is comprised of a surgeon with 20 years of implanting experience (Dr. Scott Thompson), three doctoral-level implant audiologists (Dr. Jason Wigand, Dr. Beth Hulvey, and Dr. Nicole Burrows), and two certified auditory-verbal therapists (Ms. Gina Crosby-Quinatoa and Ms. Jamy Claire Archer) with over 25 years of implant experience. “Our team provides extensive rehabilitation services to ensure the best possible results are achieved with the cochlear implant device,” says Dr. Wigand, who is an assistant professor in the COMD department and the director of the cochlear implant program. “Outcomes for patients include enhanced communication abilities, increased independence, and functioning in the hearing world. Most uniquely, we work closely with one another as well as the cochlear implant recipient’s family, educators, and other community professionals as their involvement and support are extremely important to achieving successful outcomes for the patient.”
Since 1999, the team has performed more than 500 implants and provided services to patients from just after birth to those who are in their 90s. Adults with progressive hearing loss can benefit from cochlear implantation as well. One recent patient received a cochlear implant in her mid-seventies. Prior to receiving the implant, she struggled to understand speech in day-to-day conversation.